School Reopening: Headteachers Call For Shift System

  • Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha at a school in Nyeri on October 28, 2020.
    Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha at a school in Nyeri on October 28, 2020.
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  • Headteachers have opposed the full reopening of schools scheduled for January 4, 2021, citing inadequate preparation in a majority of schools.

    The Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) during a meeting in Nairobi on December 28 cautioned against the reopening, noting that they were underfunded.

    The school heads argued that the large populations in several public primary schools would make it near impossible for them to implement and adhere to health protocols in the fight against Covid-19.

    A teacher in a classroom
    A teacher with pupils in a classroom.
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    Kepsha Chairman Nicholas Gathemia pointed out that there are more than 23,000 public primary schools in the country with over 12 million pupils.

    "Unlike secondary schools, we were never given funds to improve on infrastructure or prepare schools for reopening. We are at a point of straining even as we prepare to receive learners next week," Gathemia stated.

    He highlighted that some schools had only 51 classrooms and up to 5,000 learners, translating to 98 learners per classroom.

    "If all learners will have to report back to school at the same time, schools will not have classes and spaces to accommodate them," Gathemia stated.

    The Ministry of Health in the course of the pandemic has advised on social distancing, about one metre gap, so as to combat the virus. MoH further requires schools to provide clean running water and storage facilities.

    The school heads asked that they be allowed to hold the school sessions in shifts.

    "We are proposing the government allows school heads to call learners back in shifts as that is the only way we can observe social distancing in schools. Currently, schools don't have enough classrooms," Gathemia stated.

    He further noted, that congestion in schools was likely to increase resulting from the closure of more than 227 private primary and secondary schools. This is more than 56,000 learners. The closure mainly resulted from the covid-19 pandemic.

    "The influx we are expecting next week is despite the congestion we have been having," Phoebe Kitoi, the headteacher at Magadi Primary School stated.

    The Kepsha Chair stated that primary schools were being underfunded by the government. The asked that the government increase capacitation from Ksh1,420 to Ksh8,077 per annum.

    The headteachers convened the meeting with the theme "Access to learning during the post-covid-19 pandemic and other crisis: Role of primary school headteachers."

    "It is time for schools to be well funded. We cannot afford to have children in public schools compete with those in private schools whose institutions are well equipped and expect to get good results," Kepsha Vice Chairman Johnson Nzioka stated.

    Kepsha Secretary Phillip Mitei asked that the government employ more teachers to balance the teacher-student ratio.

    "Schools will be required to divide learners into smaller groups and that would call for more teachers," Mitei remarked.

    The Kenya Private Schools Association CEO Peter Ndoro noted that private schools were financially affected by the pandemic.

    "As education stakeholders, we need discussions and solutions on how we will address the challenges we are facing due to the pandemic," Ndoro stated.

    The school heads asked the government to increase the free primary and secondary school funds.

    Kenya Private Schools Association official Mutheu Kasanga (left) and Chair Peter Ndoro address journalists during the association’s Directors’ Meeting at Noble Hotel in Eldoret town on October 15, 2015.
    Kenya Private Schools Association official Mutheu Kasanga (left) and Chair Peter Ndoro address journalists during the association’s Directors’ Meeting at Noble Hotel in Eldoret town on October 15, 2015.
    Daily Nation
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