The government has dispatched all the 43 Principal Secretaries to schools across the country to assess the impact of Covid-19 on education.
The programme dubbed “Operation Back to School” is intended to evaluate how learners have reported back to the institutions following the nine-month school break occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The PSs are expected to assess how the institutions are implementing the Covid-19 protocols developed by the Ministries of Health and Education with a view to ensuring that the disease does not spread among learners and teachers.
Dr. Margaret Wawuda Mwakima, the Principal Secretary for Regional Development, toured primary and secondary schools in Kilifi County on Monday, where she said the PSs would also evaluate the success or otherwise of the national government’s desks and locker project that was aimed at achieving social distancing in primary and secondary schools.
Dr. Mwakima, who led a team of three PSs touring Kilifi, Lamu and Tana River Counties this week, said the government was committed to ensuring that all students return to school, including those who fell pregnant during the unprecedented holiday.
The other PSs are Dr. Julius Ouma Jwan (Vocational Education) and Mr. Johnson Mwangi Weru (Trade).
The team toured schools in Kilifi South, Chonyi, Rabai and Kaloleni Sub Counties where she came face to face with the realties on the ground, including the fact that some learners had been forced to learn under trees, especially in primary schools.
At Mtomondini Primary School in Mtwapa, the PS and her entourage found five classrooms being conducted under trees and four inside a large hall partitioned with cardboards. However, social distancing was not achieved even after the innovative ways employed.
The situation in secondary schools visited in terms of social distancing was not as bad as that in primary schools as classrooms visited at Dzitsoni, Kombeni and Moi Kadhozndo secondary schools seemed to have managed the feat after using school halls to create space.
Speaking at the Kilifi County Commissioner’s office before embarking on the tour on Monday, Dr. Mwakima said the government was committed to protecting children from the dangerous coronavirus disease even as they enjoyed their right to education.
“We are visiting the schools to see if students have reported back and whether the covid-19 protocols are being followed. This is because it is good that we protect our learners who are the current and future leaders,” she said.
She said the government wanted to see whether the learners and tutors were wearing face masks, whether there were facilities to provide water and soap for washing their hands, whether they were keeping the social distancing, and the impacts of Covid-19 in reporting back to school following the long break from March 2020 to January this year.
“We also want to see the impact of the pandemic on the social life as it relates to learners’ relationships between them and the other opposite sex, how the pregnant cases have been reported and how, and what the county and national education teams are doing to address them,” she said.
Noting that Kilifi County was in a strategic position relating to tourism, the PS said the government was keen to establish how tourism had impacted on education among girls and boys.
“We want to establish whether our boys and girls have abandoned school to be beach operators and how the problem can be addressed if it is found to be existing,” she said.
She said the findings of the tours would help inform the government on the effectiveness of the education systems of the country.
“As a government, we are giving it a very holistic approach not just how Covid-19 has impacted on education but also other social dimensions,” she said.
“We also wish to see how the physically challenged learners are coping with the current dispensation, and how the teachers are coping and reporting because we do not want any children left behind,” she said.
Kilifi North Deputy County Commissioner Josphat Mutisya, who represented County Commissioner Kutswa Olaka, told the PS that 84.2 percent of learners in public primary schools had reported back to school while private primary schools had reported a 77.5 percent attendance.
Mutisya said 74.1 percent of students in public secondary schools had reported with private secondary schools reporting a paltry 55.7 percent due to various challenges.
He said the county multi-agency team had noted that most schools in the county were facing challenges in enforcing the social distancing protocol due to space while some schools lacked water for handwashing despite having put in place watering points.
By Emmanuel Masha