Education Principal Secretary Dr Belio Kipsang has ruled out the possibility of closing schools again after the Covid-19 cases short up in what has been described as the second wave in the country.
Despite noting the coronavirus cases in 35 schools, where 17 students, 32 teachers and four non teaching staff have been infected; the PS told Parliamentary Committee on Education that closing schools was not part of the remedy.
The government reopened schools allowing the learners of Grade 4, Class Eight and Form Four to resume physical studies. Last week, the learners sat for assessment tests to bring them up to speed with the curricula as they prepare for the examinations scheduled for early next year.
Dr Kipsang told the legislators that he gets frequent briefs about the status of reopened schools and is involved in constant process of rethinking policies.
“I get daily briefs by 5 am from our eight regional directors of education, who by then must have received theirs from county directors. So we have a daily update on any reported case,” he said.
He puzzled the committee when he stated that the learners were safer staying at home rather than being in school. “I am here to tell you that closing of the schools is not an option for us. We are not looking at that despite the recent spike of infections unless of course we are otherwise advised by Health officials,” he said.
Kipsang gave an argument that some parents are negligent of safety of their children. He said that such parents could easily infect their children, who will in turn ferry the virus to schools hence making the situation catastrophic.
He argued, “We will be hypocritical, punishing our children by not taking them to school, claiming that they may not wear masks and keep the required social distance, yet we as parents are not doing the same. We are attending political rallies without masks, and even recently I saw some parents dancing to Jerusalema in a bus without taking the necessary precautions.”
Dilemma in reopening
He however said that most schools are lacking space to help the learners adhere to the provided containment measures. The PS said in cases where learners are 50 in a class, such group can be divided into two.
His statement comes days after his boss Prof George Magoha said there was serious consultation going on before opening schools for the other students still locked at home due to the virus.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion aired similar opinion in a local TV station saying learners are safer being in school.
According to him, the government has provided enough measures to ensure that learning resumes. Sossion said that schools can resume full capacity learning even as they wait for the money from the government.
This stand was criticised by educationist Janet Muthoni Ouko who said the government was hell-bent on ambushing parents by opening schools on a short notice. Mrs Ouko said the government ought to announce the reopening of schools earlier to parents to prepare adequately. She said children who were attending private schools that have so far switched business lines will obviously be stranded upon being ambushed.