Kenya’s quest to resume formal learning suffered new headwinds on Tuesday when the government pushed it to next year amid worry over rising COVID-19 cases.
George Magoha, cabinet secretary for education, said in a televised address to the nation that it was impractical to resume learning in primary and secondary schools given the risk presented by the pandemic to the young population.
“The 2020 school calendar year will be considered lost due to COVID-19 restrictions,” said Magoha, adding that secondary school and university entrance examinations for more than 2 million youths slated for the end of this year had been suspended.
He said that phased reopening of universities, colleges and vocational training institutions will commence in September subject to adherence to ministry of health guidelines on curbing spread of coronavirus.
“The universities should continue holding virtual learning and graduations for students who have successfully completed their programs and met graduation requirements set by their respective Senates,” said Magoha.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 15 ordered closure of basic and tertiary learning institutions to avert spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Kenyatta directed the ministry of education to hasten roll-out of virtual learning for children and youth during the prolonged closure while encouraging parents to promote home-based teaching.
Magoha said that online learning had been progressing without hitches but clarified that students from remote parts of the country were yet to be adequately serviced due to lack of internet connection.
He said the decision to suspend the reopening of schools in September was based on advice given by a taskforce comprising public health specialists that pointed at inadequate capacity of learning institutions to handle rapid spread of COVID-19.
Magoha said that the learning institutions were currently ill-equipped to promote social distancing, testing and hand hygiene as a prerequisite to safe reopening.
“Reducing physical contact in learning institutions by having fewer learners will have a greater impact on reducing COVID-19 cases and fatalities,” said Magoha.
Handwashing with soap, use of sanitizers, wearing of masks and monitoring body temperature will be the minimum requirements for the health and safety of learners,” he added.
Statistics from Kenya’s ministry of education indicate that nearly 16 million children and youth are enrolled in public schools that are deemed vulnerable to mass transmission of coronavirus in the absence of solid mitigation measures. Enditem