Mass Reopening: Journalists Banned from Visiting Schools

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    File image of a congested classroom in Kenya
  • Journalists have raised alarm over the government's move to ban the media from visiting schools, arguing that Kenyans will miss out on timely updates on the Covid-19 situation in schools

    The order was issued by a committee comprising of Cabinet Secretaries, George Magoha (Education), Joe Mucheru (ICT), Mutahi Kagwe (Health), the Council of Governors on Sunday, January 3, a day before students resumed studies.

    Regional and County Directors were instructed to prohibit journalists from accessing institutions as the government argued that the media was tainting its image. 

    "Watching the news and seeing that the media have unfettered access to schools is worrying. Regional and County Directors warn school heads that the media should not access schools unless given permission," the directive reads. 

    Education CS George Magoha inspects Olympic Primary School on Saturday, January 2, 2021
    Education CS George Magoha inspects Olympic Primary School on Saturday, January 2, 2021.

    Journalists will only be allowed in schools with permission from the Ministry of Education unlike before where they sought the authority of school heads. 

    The order was issued after Education CS George Magoha was criticised for ordering students to learn under trees and also acknowledged that it would be difficult to enforce social distance in schools. 

    In an interview on Citizen TV on Sunday, January 3, the CS argued that the media at some point did not offer him fair coverage. He referred to the incident where he insulted a County Education Director, arguing that some parts of the altercation were not aired and he ended up facing a backlash. 

    Upon reopening of schools, the media has exposed the plight of students who were spotted sitting outside the classes while others were congested in rooms and under trees. 

    In Seriani School based in Baringo County, PP1 and Class 8 students were filmed being taught in one class by two teachers at the same time. Parents also lamented that students in many other schools did not wash hands and wear masks, and kindergarten pupils were found sharing lollipops. 

    Media Council Chief Executive Officer David Omwoyo argued that the government's reason for protecting vulnerable children from infections is valid, but it was wrong to bar the media. He instead called for protocols to be issued on the conduct of the media. 

    "The media has exposed the pathetic state of preparations in schools," Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) Secretary-General Erick Oduor said, adding that the directive infringed on the freedom of the media. 

    Speaking to the Standard, school heads argued that the directive was routine saying that candidates needed to prepare for national exams with minimal interruption. Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) Chairman Nicholas Gathemia defended the move.  

    CS Magoha added that not only journalists but parents and all other visitors were also banned. 

    Students travel home via Lake Baringo’s after schools were submerged in waters in January 2021