The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) has challenged the government to review the decision to re-open learning institutions arguing that most schools across the country had not fully complied with health directives meant to keep learners and teachers safe from Covid-19.
Mr Paul Maingi, the Union’s National Organising Secretary, warned that the country was not out of danger and cited the alarming recent spike of Covid-19 cases as indicator of the grave risks facing learning institutions if they reported without proper containment measures.
Mr Maingi was speaking at Nzambani village in Kambu area of Makueni County on Saturday during the burial of a kin to Mr Shedrack Mutungi, the executive secretary for KUPPET in Taita-Taveta.
“We must tell the Cabinet Secretary for Education not to gamble with the lives of teachers and learners. The schools are not ready to re-open. This exercise is needlessly endangering the lives of innocent people,” he said.
The official regretted that the education sector was reeling from total confusion brought about by lack of clarity over the schools re-opening modalities including dates and how learning will resume after the long break.
Mr Maingi said that while 72 percent of secondary schools were day-schools, only 28 per cent were boarding yet the health directives issued to such institutions had not been complied with.
This, he added, would only compound the efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus in schools.
He argued that most schools especially in rural areas lacked basic sanitation facilities and had not complied with rules on social distancing for boarding schools.
Other requirements including buying of masks and thermal guns for checking temperature were also not being adhered to.
“The ministry should ensure that all safety protocols have been complied with before any decision is arrived at to re-open the schools,” he said.
The union’s call comes just before the expected re-opening of schools on Monday. The government has already directed that Grade four, Standard Eight and Form Four learners report to schools for resumption of learning.
According to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), over 337,000 teachers have reported back to their respective schools awaiting the arrival of learners.
The Ministry of Education has issued the expected dates for national examinations with KCPE expected to start on March 22 and end on 24. For secondary schools, KCSE is set to start on March 25 and end on April 16.
Despite such plans, some parents have expressed jitters over the safety of their learners in schools.
Ms Anitta Kambi, a parent in Gimba village, said the abrupt re-opening had caught her unaware adding that constant insistence by the ministry of education on keeping the safety of the learners first had made her conclude schools would re-open in 2021.
“These dates caught me by surprise. I didn’t expect schools to re-open this year because we are still receiving reports of Covid-19 infections. I have to worry as a parent,” she said.
Her concerns come from a sharp surge of covid-19 reported in the last two days. In the last one month, reported cases were on double digits, giving hope that the country was flattening the curve. However, on Friday, the cases shot up to 442 out of a sample size of 5,327. On Saturday, the country reported 538 from a total sample size of 6,872.
However, other parents are upbeat over the re-opening of schools terming it as long overdue. Mr Elias Mberi, a Voi parent, said there would be no perfect time to resume learning as Kenyans always found an excuse to postpone all fixed deadlines. He predicted that most operations in schools would rapidly return to normal once learners reported back.
Mr Mberi, who is a member of the County Education Board in Taita Taveta, said the reopening would take back learners from homes into an environment where they could focus and be safe.
“The only way to get education back on line is by sending learners to schools. We are likely to wait indefinitely if parents are given time to get ready,” he said.
By Wagema Mwangi