Learners in Kenya are back to school for in person learning after nearly 10 months of virtual learning in the wake of the COVID-19.
The government ordered a phased reopening of schools in 2020 where about 3 million students, who were exam candidates reported to schools as other learners waited to report at a later date.
Grade 4, Grade 8 and Form 4 students spearheaded the phased reopening on 12th October 2020. The Ministry of Education offered a back to school training of school heads in basic and higher learning institutions on Covid-19 health guidelines before the phased reopening of schools .
Directives from State House:
On June 6, 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the Ministry of Education, together with other relevant stakeholders, to come up with new school term dates, academic calendar and a road map for reopening all learning institutions by mid-August 2020.
All learners in primary and secondary school have resumed in person learning since the 4th of January 2021. The over 15 million learners who have resumed remain in their previous classes including those that continued learning through online classes.
The term dates that the government set out for learners are as follows:
- Full reopening of all schools on 4th January 2021 for continuing PP1 and PP2 pupils; Grade 1,2 and 3; Class 5, 6 and 7; and Form 1, 2 and 3 learners.
- Term 2(2020) will run for 11 weeks until 19th March 2021
- All learners apart from class 8 and form 4 candidates will go for a 7-day holiday. This is to allow exam candidates to sit for their KCPE AND KCSE exams.
- Grade 4 and incoming form 1(Graduates) will stay in school as other learners start and continue with term 3(2020).
- Term 3(2020) begins on May 10th 2021.
- Term3(2020) ends on July 16th 2021.
- Term 1(2021) begins on July 26th 2021- All grade 4 CBC learners to transit to grade 5 in July 2021 as noted by Permanent Secretary Bello Kipsang.
- There will be no national exams in November 2021 due to absence of Class 8 and Form 4.
- Learners who were to join Grade 1 in 2021 will need to wait another year in Pre-school or stay at home then join Grade 1 in 2022 due to Covid-19 safety issues, this is because small children are poor in social distancing and may find it difficult to wear a face mask.
School Term Dates Summary
|Half term break||3/6/2021||7/6/2021||3Days|
|Term 1(2021)||26/7/2021||1/10/2021||10 Weeks|
|Half term break||26/8/2021||29/8/2021||3 Days|
|Term 2(2021)||11/10/2021||23/12/2021||11 Week|
|Christmas/Holiday break||24/12/2021||10 Days|
National Exam Dates (KCPE AND KCSE)
|2020||March and April 2021|
|2022||December 2022 and January 2023|
|2023||November and December 2023|
Two Form One Intakes:
From the proposed term dates, we realize that there will likely be two form one intakes in May 2021: these are 2020 KCPE candidates who are expected to join form one in 2nd term on 3rd May 2021 and the 2019 candidates who had reported for form one in first term 2020. Schools need to plan ahead This may pose a logistics challenge as accommodation and form one classes are congested. Schools need to plan ahead to ensure social distancing measures are observed.
This means that there will be two form two classes in 2022 and they will go through a double par system/Double stream. This will help in observing social distancing measures in addition to the ADS (Alternative day system) and the SLS (Shift learning system).
This proposal seems to be a much better opinion than having both 2020 KCPE and 2020 KCSE candidates repeat the whole academic year. Repeating a class can have negative effects on the candidates. In the meantime, parents can encourage their children to continue learning at home to enhance life skills that are necessary for self development.
Guidelines have been put in place to ensure the safety of school going learners including:
- Restricted movement in and out of learning institutions.
- Mandatory temperature checks.
- A requirement to have face masks on at all times for learners, teachers, non-teaching staff and the entire school community. Those living with disability will use transparent face masks not to hinder their ways of communication. Mutheu Kasanga, Chair of Private Schools Association stated in an interview with KTN News that school going learners will have to wear face masks as part of their uniform.
- One metre distance between desks. Some schools will have to have classes outside to ensure social distancing. CS Prof. George Magoha encouraged teachers to in fact teach learners outside, under trees if the weather is conducive for doing so.
- Schools to create isolation facilities and if not liaise with their local health service provider/health care institutions.
- Assemblies, parents meeting and co-curriculum activities banned.
- School buses to carry half their capacity.
- Students to be served in shifts, where possible, take their lunches in class.
- Pedal operated taps to be stationed.
- Provision of water and soap.
Other measures that the government has put in place are as follows:
- No visiting, prayer and speech days such that PTA and AGM are held online (virtual). Parents not to visit schools in person except when dropping or picking up their children.
- In case of a confirmed Covid-19 case/cases, the school must be placed on lockdown and await Ministry of Health instructions. Parents should not be allowed to visit or collect children until Ministry of Health clearance.
- School transport (bus and van) must be sanitized before each trip and learners seated so as to ensure social distancing. No picking up of children before 6.30 am as per GoK directive.
- Each school to form a Covid-19 committee to be chaired by Deputy Headteacher and to do a daily inspection to ensure that school is observing Covid-19 protocols.
- Social distancing marks to ensure that learners are 2 metres apart.
- Double decker beds to be turned into single beds.
- Additional temporary dormitories to be constructed where needed.
- Learners not to move between classes apart from special lessons.
The Ministry of Education was allocated Sh. 497.5 billion in the 2020/2021 financial year budget with KES 59.4 billion expected to go to free secondary education and KES 12.4 billion for free primary education.
As of 2020, 3000 private schools were set to benefit from a KES 7 billion concessional loan from the government to facilitate reopening of schools. The loan is to be availed at an interest rate of 2.5-3.5%.
CS Prof. George Magoha stated that the government understands the situation hence the loan. In a recent interview with Waihiga Mwaura on Citizen TV, CS George Magoha said that the loan issue is still in the pipeline as it has already gone through cabinet, however, the question is will the government fund public schools first- where education is free- or will it fund private schools?
The government will most likely consider the tax base reductions in tackling this question. Parents who had children in private schools and can no longer afford to pay the tuition fee for one reason or the other have been advised to transfer their children to public schools. The government is ready to accommodate such learners.
Executive Stimulus Package
The government also got an executive stimulus package of KES 1.9Billion to provide desks for learners in plight of observing social distance guidelines. The Ministry of Education has said that 60% of the desks have already been delivered and the rest are underway.
The Ministry of Education also says that it has ring fenced KES 1Million to provide masks for children and 7.5Million masks to be distributed to children from economically challenged homes. Other children will have to have masks provided by parents.
The Ministry of Education has also received masks worth KES 2Million from Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB Bank) and UNICEF.
KES 8.2Billion was given to the Government of Kenya in a syndicate between the Government of Kenya and World Bank for infrastructure.
Concerns from Teachers Union
As per KUPPET Chairman Omboka Milemba, teachers have been ready for the reopening of schools and have been following current events including briefings by the National Emergency Response Committee (Multi-agency led by CS Prof. George Magoha that brings together Ministries of Interior and Coordination of National Government, ICT and Ministry of Health). KUPPET is however concerned about disbursement funds by the Government. Schools are currently at 20% of capitation instead of the usual 30% needed for second term to ensure smooth running of schools.
Reallocation of Funds
The question that is left for the government to ponder upon is where they will get money for the things that were ordinarily not in the budget.
Per CS Prof. George Magoha some unused funds will be transferred to procurement of such items. Such unused funds include savings from procuring desks at KES 3800 instead of KES 7,000 to 11,000. Such savings will go into providing items such as soap and hand sanitizers.
Schools will also not have activities such as inter school competitions, drama festivals, sports and similar activities. Funds allocated to these accounts will then be used to satisfy the provided checklist/guidelines that are required to keep learners, teachers and support staff in good health.
Children going back to school is a good thing. Kenyan’s should manage their attitudes over learners going back to school and assist the government in ensuring that learners are adequately supported.
The Road Ahead
Parents and guardians should be at the forefront in sensitizing children on COVID-19 preventive measures in a manner that they understand. Teachers and support staff should take particular care in watching children closely to ensure COVID-19 guidelines are followed to the letter. This will ensure smooth reopening of schools and safety of the children.
The government on the other hand should look to emulate other countries such as Rwanda, in which we saw 23,000 COVID-19 friendly facilities being built amidst the pandemic. Similar measures in Kenya would help us beat the challenge of stalling the academic year due to the worldwide pandemic.