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Kenya: Education Boss Hints at Re-Opening Schools Before January

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Universities and colleges have been cleared to recall students for on-campus learning as the government also considers reopening schools this year.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on Monday signalled that the initial proposal to reopen schools in January will be shelved as he gave the Covid-19 Education Emergency Response Committee 10 days to propose an earlier date, citing progress in the fight against coronavirus.

Prof Magoha directed the committee to formulate a new proposal that will be presented to a national education conference scheduled for next week.

The CS who spoke after a crisis meeting at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), attributed the development to decreasing cases of Covid-19 that suggest the curve may be flattening.

“I called this meeting today to engage the taskforce and various education stakeholders on the process of drafting a new proposal to be presented before the larger national education stakeholder’s conference that will be held on September 25,” said Prof Magoha.

Recall students

It also emerged that the CS had given universities and Technical and Vocational Institutions green light to recall students.

At the meeting that lasted over three hours, various proposals were presented, with suggestions that schools and universities should be reopened starting next month.

The committee chaired by KICD Chairperson Sarah Ruto was given one week to draw the protocols for safe reopening and advise the ministry on measures that need to be taken

A source who attended the meeting told the Nation that the CS had allowed management of universities to decide on their respective dates to ask students to report to campuses based on their individual assessments.

“The CS asked university senates to determine their individual university opening dates based on the fact that the institutions have reopened virtually for the September -December Semester,” explained the source.

Next week, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Health counterpart Mutahi Kagwe will co-chair the national consultative conference to chart the country’s post Covid-19 future.

The education committee is required to present a detailed report at the conference on the steps to prepare schools, universities and colleges for safe reopening.

Fewer Covid cases

President Uhuru Kenyatta had directed the Cabinet secretaries in the ministries of Education, Health and Interior to convene the conference that will inform his address to the nation at the end of this month.

Prof Magoha said based on reports from the Health ministry, which has reported fewer confirmed cases of the disease in recent days, there is need to revisit initial discussions on opening of schools.

“It is time to relook at earlier proposals regarding reopening of schools. We are looking at all aspects, but have not come to a consensus on when schools can reopen, or set any date,” said Prof Magoha. “Between now and next week, the taskforce committee will work on finer details that will be interrogated by the larger stakeholders meeting,” he added.

Head of Infectious Disease at the Kenyatta National Hospital Loice Ombajo said the country’s positivity rate is below five percent, which is the recommended threshold by the World Health Organization to review restrictions.

“We can now begin to consider ways of lifting the bans in the country,” Dr Ombajo explained.

Prof Magoha said the ministry will start distributing facemasks and additional desks to schools.

Last week, the CS had directed education field officers to follow through the supply of additional desks, lockers and chairs to schools.

The government will use Sh1.9 billion allocated under the economic stimulus programme to supply schools with more furniture to enable social distancing by pupils.

A total of 622,357 lockers and chairs are expected to be supplied to all public primary and secondary schools by October 19.

The furniture is for additional learning spaces in dining halls and within compounds that schools are expected to establish.

Quarantine centres

The committee is also expected to advise the Health ministry to transfer patients quarantined in secondary schools. Some schools such as St Georges and Lenana School in Nairobi are still being used as quarantine centres.

Prof Magoha also refuted claims that funds meant to pay Boards of Management (BOM) teachers had not been wired to schools.

He insisted the money was released six weeks ago. Prof Magoha said the ministry approved the payment and teachers have been paid.

“Whoever is saying that school funds were never released should explain where he or she is getting that from. All BOM teachers, whose details we collected, have received their cash,” said Prof Magoha. The CS said the ministry is working to release funds meant to pay non-teaching staff and other administrative activities that will help schools to prepare for reopening.

This comes even as school heads continue to lament that no funds have been released to them. Those who attended yesterday’s meeting included officials of the Teachers Service Commission, Ministry of Education, the Kenya National Union of Teachers, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers and the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association.

Others were representatives of the Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association, the Kenya Parents Association, Universities Academic Staff union, the Kenya Universities Staff Union, the Kenya Private Schools Association and Kenya Special Needs Heads Association.

Others invited to the meeting were representatives of non-governmental organisations and Faith-based organisations.

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