School closure hurting learners from poor homes — Murang'a MPs - Beaking Kenya News

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Friday, 2 October 2020

School closure hurting learners from poor homes — Murang'a MPs


MPs from Murang’a county have supported Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha’s sentiments that it is time for schools to reopen.

Magoha on Wednesday said the government is prioritising Standard 8 and Form 4 learners and that opening dates will soon be announced. This has attracted the support of politicians who said continued closure of schools is disadvantaging children from poor families.

Speaking during an education meeting at Murang'a High School, the leaders said children from affluent families are learning, despite the restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Senator Irungu Kang’ata termed it unfortunate that advantaged parents have hired tutors for their children as their poor counterparts wait for the government to reopen schools.

He described the situation as an imbalance among children, cautioning that the impact may be felt for a long time if nothing is done urgently to ensure all learners are back in class. That's enough justification for learning institutions to reopen, he said.

Children from wealthy backgrounds will have covered the syllabus as those of less-advantaged parents struggle to pick up from where they left six months ago.

Kang'ata, who is the Senate Majority Chief Whip, emphasised that the government exists for the common citizen and has to fast-track reopening.

“The government has been maintaining schools’ personnel and infrastructure without any commensurate benefits,” he said, adding that though the Covid-19 prevention protocols need to be taken into account, learning should not be delayed further.

The lawmaker noted that developed countries that have been hard hit by the pandemic have reopened their learning institutions, adding that that shows the significance of education in a country's development.

“If I were asked, learning should be done day and night once schools reopen so learners can catch up on lost time,” Kang'ata said.

Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi warned that valuable learning time is going to waste as children stay at home.  He said having children spend too much time at home is counterproductive.

Nduati urged the government to consider forwarding funds set aside for schools' recurrent expenditure to MPs, so they can help schools prepare for resumption.

"The more they stay at home, the more their time goes and research has shown that the more one ages, the less he or she can focus on education,” he said.

Nduati also highlighted the need not to charge parents when children resume learning, saying their first-term fees were not exhausted.

Maragua MP Mary Waithera expressed concern that many upper primary pupils and secondary school students are now engaging in criminal activities, including peddling and smoking bhang.

She said reopening is the only way to save children from crime and teenage motherhood and fatherhood.

“The youngest teenage mother we have is a nine-year-old girl from Ithanga in Gatanga who even turned up for a meeting in school uniform due to poverty,” Waithera said.

Weighing in on the teen mothers issue, Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia called for stern punitive measures against defilers and those who perpetuate the vice. He also appealed to other government officials to discourage child labour.

Kandara MP Alice Wahome, however, accused CS Magoha of sending mixed signals to parents over learning resumption. She said it is vital for the government to take care when releasing information to the public to win Kenyans' confidence.

“The government has given the formula on how colleges and universities will reopen and a similar thing should be done for Standard 8 and Form 4 candidates to lessen their anxiety,” Wahome said.

“Magoha should be given another job. He can’t keep giving parents varying dates. That demonstrates a lack of seriousness and consultation and inability to deal with the magnitude of Covid-19 in the education sector."

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