The Ministry of Education has developed a Covid-19 Response Plan to mitigate the effects of the disease that has thrown learning programs into disarray. The plan that will be implemented for one-and-a-half years, from June 1, spells out measures the government intends to put in place to minimize adverse effects during the period schools are closed and when they reopen.

“The plan aims to ensure continued learning and promote health, safety and well-being of learners, teachers and education officials during the coronavirus crisis,” the document reads.

There has been uncertainty over when schools, which were closed mid-March, will reopen. Second term was to begin on Monday this week, but that was pushed to June 4 when the situation regarding the spread of the disease will be assessed.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, on Sunday hinted at a possible longer closure if the infections are not contained.

The CS posed: “Would you rather take your children to school with the facts you have just been given?” He was alluding to the rising numbers of Covid-19 positive cases that had just been reported.

The past one-week has seen a surge in infections and yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported the highest daily tally (45) since the outbreak of the disease in the country.

The response plan says that the reopening of schools and concretisation of the plan will be determined by the lifespan of the disease.

“It is not possible to define the lifespan of Covid-19 crisis and specify when schools will reopen. There is therefore need to put in place, measures to circumvent the loss of teaching time,” the document reads.

Prof Magoha has in the past struggled to explain that though schools are physically shut, learning is going on through the TV, radio and Kenya Education Cloud content.

However, the situation on the ground tells a different story as there are grave inequalities especially in regard to reach and affordability by children from poor households.

The response plan appears to anticipate measures to be triggered in case schools remain closed longer than already stated.

Through the plan, the government aims to achieve “seamless learning to ensure children do not lose out on essential learning time.”

The ministry acknowledges the shortcomings of the current government interventions and also anticipates a rise in undesirable behaviour that may have long-term effects on learners.

“These learners require home-based learning which has proved challenging with parental engagement, due to low levels of ICT literacy and accessibility of devices as well as other competing priorities at the household level. The schools’ closure coupled with restricted movement, with acute challenges around space, may exacerbate cases of exposure to pornographic materials, drug and substance abuse, increased rape and gender-based violence including defilement of children,” the document reads.

Children with disabilities and special needs face extra challenges because many encounter higher chances of neglect, abuse and segregation. This predisposes them to possible psychosocial challenges, including mental ill health.

 

By David Muchunguh