Social distancing a major challenge as schools reopen after 9-month closure

Social distancing a major challenge as schools reopen after 9-month closure

All public and private learning institutions including pre-primary level to universities reopened today, Monday January 4, 2021, after a nine-month break.

A spot-check conducted by Citizen Digital across various schools revealed that learners reported back to their respective institutions in large numbers on the first day of reopening despite a few challenges.

In Kibra, for instance, a section of parents were stranded at the gate of Olympic Primary School after failing to secure admission into the institution.

Most pupils were affected following the demolition of structures along the railway line and closure of some private schools affected by COVID-19.

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha early Monday morning visited Olympic Primary School and indicated that the institution will not be able to admit any more learners owing to the current capacity which stands at over 4,700.

Parents Association Chairman Fredrick Obuogo, who addressed the stranded parents, advised them to seek alternative learning institutions within Kibra.

Parents stranded at the gate of Olympic Primary School in Kibra after failing to secure admission into the institution. PHOTO | ERIC OWENGA | CITIZEN DIGITAL
Parents stranded at the gate of Olympic Primary School in Kibra after failing to secure admission into the institution. PHOTO | ERIC OWENGA | CITIZEN DIGITAL

At Muslim Primary School in Suna East, Migori County, over 40% of the 580 learners had already reported by the time of the spot-check, with more still reporting.

The school has only 16 classrooms which, according to the head teacher Hamisi Musa, is adequate but the major challenge is inadequate desks.

The school received 75 desks from the government but Mr. Musa told Citizen Digital that they are not comfortable for some learners.

Learners at Muslim Primary School in Suna East, Migori County, after reporting back on January 4, 2021. PHOTO | GEORGE JUMA | CITIZEN DIGITAL
Learners at Muslim Primary School in Suna East, Migori County, after reporting back on January 4, 2021. PHOTO | GEORGE JUMA | CITIZEN DIGITAL

Over half of the 1,000 pupils at Arunda Primary School in Homa Bay County have so far also reported, with the head teacher Dr. Fred Ayaga however stating that the institution’s 10 classrooms are not enough and that achieving social distancing will be a problem.

To combat this, Dr. Ayaga said they will be forced to conduct lessons in shifts. He however added that adequate hand washing facilities had been installed.

At Kereri Girls High School in Kisii County, fumigation process is still ongoing since the institutoion was used as an isolation center. Learners are expected to report back to the school on Tuesday.

Fumigation ongoing at Kereri Girls High School in Kisii County, on January 4, 2021. PHOTO | HYLINE OCHARO | CITIZEN DIGITAL
Fumigation ongoing at Kereri Girls High School in Kisii County, on January 4, 2021. PHOTO | HYLINE OCHARO | CITIZEN DIGITAL

Some pupils are Esamba Primary School in Nyaribari Chache, Kisii, turned up without masks while other institutions in the area did not have adequate handwashing facilities.

A spot-check at various schools along the Coastal stretch such as Mwanyambo Primary School in Voi, Khadija Primary School in Mombasa, Mwakigwena Primary School in Kwale revealed near100% turn outs despite some of the learners reporting back without masks.

The government previously said it put in place all measures to ensure safe re-opening for all learners, adding that it also instituted stringent measures including ban on visits and extra-curriculum activities for the next three months to keep the learners safe.

This even as the Ministry of Education instituted a mandatory rule of masks in schools by reminding parents to provide masks to their children as part of school uniform.

The ministry availed seven million masks for the most vulnerable children including those from low income areas, further releasing Ksh.4.6 billion as capitation grants to enable the institutions implement health protocols including supply of running water.

Other measures to ensure all learners resume learning included a directive to all public schools to ensure that all learners are enrolled back to school irrespective of their fees balances.

While acknowledging that social distancing will be a challenge, the government urged teachers and administrators to find innovative ways of creating more space in their school compounds.

The ministry also directed public schools to provide opportunities for admission to learners from private schools which have closed, all pregnant and teenage mothers must be allowed to resume learning, institutions to sustain and expand isolation centres, and all events in schools involving external persons like sporting events have been banned.

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has since also negotiated with PSV operators through the Matatu Owners Association to ensure bus fares are not raised and that drunk drivers are not allowed on the roads.

Reporting by Eric Owenga, George Juma, Aly Abich, Hyline Ocharo