Kenya: Schools face new fears of Covid-19 infections as learning resumes



A new headache over congestion and fears of Covid-19 infection await principals, learners and parents as schools reopen today for the first semester of the 2021 school year.

At least 400,000 of the 1,179,192 learners joining Form One may not have a learning space as only 747,161 learners left high school last year.

A Nation spot check found that many schools are still creating additional space, including classrooms, dormitories, laboratories and libraries to accommodate more learners.

Private secondary

“There is an increase in the number of students in all fields. We have not increased the capacity of secondary schools alongside the number of employees leaving Standard Eight,” said Kahi Indimuli, president of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association. (Kessha), to Nation in a recent interview.

And, although some parents choose to take their children to private secondary schools, these only have a capacity of 70,000 people and congestion in public schools will persist.

A review of the Form One screening results also shows that some schools have received more students than they can accommodate.

Kagumo High School in Nyeri, for example, has been allocated 398 students for a capacity of 285, Tenwek Boys High School has received 400, but can only accommodate 272, while Kakamega School has received. 500 against a capacity of 380.

At the same time, enrollment at Chavakali High School is expected to rise to 2,120 when the Form Ones pay off, although there is only room for 1,600 students.

“It is difficult to understand how the government wants to manage the quality of education. The new number of teachers is insufficient and there are still schools without basic infrastructure such as laboratories,” the secretary general of Nation told Nation. Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers, Akello Misori. yesterday.

Secondary schools face a serious shortage of teachers, with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) currently recruiting 9,000 people.

The commission will host a stakeholder forum in Nairobi today on preparing teachers for the full reopening of schools. Congestion in schools, coupled with staffing issues, remains a major drawback for the 100 percent transition policy.

The government has set aside funds to hire 5,000 teachers per year for the past four years, although this remains below optimal levels.

School management boards are forced to employ teachers to fill in the gaps amid budget constraints.

“There is no 100% transition policy but just a general guideline. We haven’t changed the system. We just put it on life support,” Jonathan Wesaya, CEO of Tathmini Consulting.

“Schools are overcrowded and principals need to create school-specific routines. Organizing a morning parade for a school of 2,400 students is like organizing a political rally.

He observed that the program was not anchored on the key pillars of finance, personnel, infrastructure and equipment, teaching and learning resources.

The transition policy, he added, has worsened inequalities between learners attending established schools and those in new ones.

“It should not be just bora elimu but elimu bora (quality education),” he said.

Movement of millions

Mr Misori called on the Ministry of Education to adopt a model with a checklist of what is needed in schools in terms of human resources and infrastructure in order to cope with the challenges facing schools.

Back home, parents who say goodbye to their children in boarding schools will fear for the safety of the learners.

The condensed academic year will see them pay fees for the third time in just seven months, with the government keen to recoup the “lost year”. The full academic year will take 30 weeks instead of the usual 39 with shorter periods and holidays.

The risk of an explosion of the coronavirus in crowded schools remains real, with data from the Ministry of Health indicating that the positivity rate still remains high.

The average for the last eight days stood at 11.8%, Saturday and Sunday at 13.7 and 12.2%, respectively.

There are also fears that the displacement of millions of learners and teachers to various destinations across the country could trigger an increase in the rate of infection.

But for fifth-graders and first-graders, it’s a relief after leaving school for four months.

Learners had to stay out of school to avoid an overlap as they had opened earlier last year when other classes had closed.

“I’m also happy to go back to school. My sister would leave me at home and only come back in the evening after school,” said Tamara Kariuki, a student from Nairobi County who is now entering fifth grade. .

The pioneering competency-based curriculum class will enter its final year of primary school next April.

They will take their sixth year assessment at the end of 2022 before entering college.

Dropout rate

Education stakeholders expressed concern about the unprecedented dropout rates recorded when learners were out of school.

More learners, especially those expected to join Form One, are expected to drop out for a variety of reasons.

A recent report from the Presidential Policy and Strategic Unit indicates that 16% and 8% of girls and boys respectively did not return to school when it opened in January.

It indicates that “250,000 girls and 125,000 boys who were in school in March 2020 had not returned to school in February 2021 mainly due to the lack of school fees, underlining the impact of the economic situation of the center. city ​​on their education “.

The report, titled Promises to keep: Impact of Covid-19 on Adolescents in Kenya, cites unintended pregnancies as the second leading cause of school drop-out among girls, and the choice to work for boys.


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