January school’s reopening may be revised depending on Covid status

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha addressing the press at Mt Kenya University during a monitoring exercise on school’s compliance to MoH regulations before they can reopen.

The decision to reopen schools in January is not cast in stone and may be revised backwards or extended depending on the country’s Covid-19 status, Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) George Magoha has said.

He said the decision will largely hinge on the behavior pattern of the pandemic and will be taken in the best interests of students.

Speaking in Thika Technical Institute while monitoring its preparedness, the CS said experts and stakeholders are always involved before each decision is made, dismissing perceptions that he rarely consults.

“If for example in the next two weeks we flatten the curve completely, do we have a reason to keep students at home up to January? The pressure is huge and sometimes we ask ourselves, do we misadvise the President so that children go back to school and die? But we thank God that our President listens to professional opinion,” he said.

On schools preparedness, the CS said only the Mount Kenya and Strathmore universities are nearest to meeting the set MoH protocols.

He said public universities were finding it difficult to meet these guidelines due to their high student enrolment populations and limited resources.

“We know they are forced to house four to six students in a cubicle. They have very few water points making it difficult to observe hygiene and are quite crowded,” he added.

Some of the protocols schools are required to meet include putting up many water points, having a health facility not 10 kilometers away, setting aside an isolation room to hold students who develop Covid-19 symptoms and having enough rooms to ensure students are not crowded.

He noted that medical students will be challenged once schools resume, since they mostly attend to patients as part of their learning curriculum.

“This is also the challenge facing the University of Nairobi where we have to decide whether to examine medical students without allowing them to interact with patients. We will have to consult with the Health Ministry and Education stakeholders,” he said.

On online learning that most universities have adopted, the CS challenged universities to adopt technology, to be able to operate normally and remain relevant.

He said the new normal dictated schools to become innovative, and called on schools to get prepared for this phase.

The CS said over 80 per cent of universities, especially the public ones lack online resources, assuring them of the government support to make them at par them with the big universities.

“We have since had a number of universities doing their graduation online during this Covid-19 period. This is the new normal which all schools should adopt as they prepare for phased learning which we hope will be in January,” said Magoha.