Which way Magoha? Headteachers decry being kept in the dark on reopening - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 12 September 2020

Which way Magoha? Headteachers decry being kept in the dark on reopening

 Education CS George Magoha during Covid-19 press briefing at Afya House on March 13, 2020.

Six months after closure of learning institutions, there are no safety measures that have been put in place in anticipation of reopening in January next year, interviews with head teachers indicate.

Following the closure of schools on March 15, two days after the first cases of the coronavirus were reported in the country, children have been at home with no signs of reopening this year.

Education CS George Magoha has maintained that parents will have to stay with their children until it is safe to return to physical classrooms, adding that it is better to have a living child at home than a dead one after forcing reopening of institutions.

However, with just three months to the turn of the year, interviews by the Star with dozens of school heads assessing the current situation put to question the ability of schools to put in place what is required to guarantee reopening.

The decision on when to reopen schools has become one of the most hotly contested issues around easing the coronavirus lockdown.

But while the debate has largely focused on the loss to children’s education while schools have been shut, a bigger concern is the effect of reopening with premature preparations.

To date, schools neither have a go ahead on what should be done nor has money been set for preparations to ensure safety in schools.

Headteachers foresee a rush against time approach in preparation for the reopening of learning facilities.

"The sad truth is that schools are still stuck where they were in mid- March and headteachers are in the dark on the way forward," a principal who spoke to the Star on basis of confidentiality told the Star.

In May, the Education ministry requested  all schools to submit their status reports; including the number of classes, toilets, dormitory capacities for boarding institutions and school population.

In August, Magoha announced that the government had sent Sh2.1 billion for building additional classrooms in secondary schools and Sh6.5 billion to hire teachers and improve infrastructure.

The money is part of the Sh59.4 billion set aside to support free secondary education and Sh12.4 billion for free primary education.

Half of this money was sent to schools in first term.

With the outbreak of coronavirus, the second and third-term money was redirected to the Covid-19 Education Emergency Fund, Magoha said in an August parliamentary meeting.

Indimuli Kahi, the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman challenged the lack of proper guidance on the way forward in school preparation.

Kahi said schools are yet to receive any guidance on standard procedure on what should be done in primary and secondary schools and the funds for such purpose.

"Up to now, no money has been sent to schools to pay bills and prepare for reopening neither have the suppliers, BoM teachers and non-teaching staff been paid for the last five months," Kahi told the Star.

Education experts had suggested that the closure of the institutions would give time for putting schools up to their required status.

Questions on whether schools will be able to put in place everything that is needed on time.

Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association chair, Nicholas Gathemia also raised uncertainty in the efforts to ensure schools are safe before reopening.

Gathemia said the primary schools as well were yet to receive allocation to aid in the same.

But what disgruntles the association the most is the stalled salaries of some of the institutions non teaching staff that leaves them in a compromising state.

“It is unfair to put someone to work for months with no pay… This is total abuse of human rights,” Gathemia said.

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