Teachers across the country are still coming to terms with the unprecedented challenges, as they seek to enforce the Covid-19 containment measures to ensure the safety of learners.
Some narrated the myriad challenges they encountered as they sought to enforce the use of hand washing dispensers, wearing of face masks and ensuring social distancing, especially among lower primary learners.
“Some of the challenges we are now facing are of our own making. We have spent many years inculcating the values of sharing among the youngsters, it has now come back to haunt us.
A child comes back to class after break without a face mask and proudly tells you he has given it to a friend in the spirit of sharing,” said Mary Naserian, a teacher at a private school in Kilgoris, Narok county.
In one of the intriguing scenarios, a pupil at a primary school in Mombasa was reported to have requested a friend to assist him with his face mask so that he could attend to a call by a teacher in the staffroom. This just to avoid the teacher’s wrath after he misplaced his mask.
Oblivious of the dangers brought about by the disease, a teacher reveals how a Grade One pupil exchanged face mask with his colleague, just because they are friends.
“These things are common. It is very hard to keep the pupils masked all day long.
They will remove it during lunch time and misplace it,” said one of the teachers who shared her experience with us.
At Khadija Primary School in the same county, the school headteacher Purity Macharia recounted the challenges teachers are encountering as they monitor learners’ movement within the compound.
“It is not easy to deal with the young learners especially in the lower classes. Some get tired and throw masks away.
As a teacher, you have to keep on reminding them the importance of having the masks on,” Macharia said.
Another teacher at the Bridge International Academy in Bamburi, Kisauni sub-county, narrated the countless instances, she has been forced to fix some of the oversize masks.
He says some masks are torn as the children play. “Some children come with oversize masks, every time they are not fitting well, as teachers, we are forced to fix them so that the learners are not exposed.”
Most teachers have resigned to the fact that young children are swapping masks with their friends, others share them with their friends while others share drinking water using the same bottle, thus exposing them.
Early this week, the social media was abuzz with parents sharing their experiences from their children upon returning from school.
One Mohamed Wehliye tweeted; “First day of school and my niece came back home with a different mask.
She told her mother she didn’t like hers and she swapped with her friend Angela!”
On Tuesday, Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zachary Kinuthia underscored the challenges teachers are facing, but reiterated they have no choice but to enforce the protocols.
“We know it is a challenge to keep minors fully masked, but as teachers, you have a role to play.
This disease can be controlled because what we need is discipline in adhering to protocols,” said Kinuthia when he toured Sparki Primary School in Mombasa.
Dorine Achieng, a Grade One teacher at Kisumu’s Lifespring Academy admitted that ensuring pupils adhered to the containment measures has become an added task.
“It is difficult for learners to put on masks throughout the day. Keeping social distance is also a challenge because they interact with one another and play.”
At Joel Omino Primary School in Kisumu, learners are slowly adjusting to the new normal following a sensitisation programme seeking to empower them on the protocols.
The school’s headteacher, Veronica Otieno said already all pupils have been taken through a rigorous orientation session on Covid-19 prevention measures after reopening.
She stated that part of the programme has been incorporated in the normal lessons to enable pupils to be fully enlightened on the dangers posed by the pandemic.
“We have ensured that our pupils are given the necessary knowledge on Covid rules. The rest of the Covid lessons will be infused in the teaching programmes this term,” Otieno said.
In Nakuru, teachers are calling for the involvement of Community Health Volunteers (CHV) in schools to create more awareness on Covid-19 regulations among learners.
According to the volunteers, a number of pupils especially in primary schools do not know how to wear a mask and washing of hands, saying it is essential in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
“There is a need for more education among the learners especially in lower classes on how to don the masks and washing of hands,” says Teresia Wanjiru -a CHV.
Another teacher noted there was need for parents to label masks for their children adding that there was a lot of mask exchanging among learners.
A spot check at most schools in Kiambu County revealed that children were still playing together without keeping social distance even as overcrowding in the classrooms remained the order of the day.
Most affected are primary school learners with physical challenges. Education heads from institutions that enroll physically disabled learners in Thika lamented that those attending to the disabled children need protective equipment.
According to James Ngugi Macharia, a head teacher at St Patrick’s Primary School, an institution for the mentally challenged based in Thika called for extra caution among learners.