The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has recalled all its field officers presently on leave to report to work in a final push by the government to secure schools ahead of opening.
In a circular sent to all regional, county and sub-county directors, the TSC directs that these officers will reinforce compliance of the Covid-19 protocols when schools open on Monday.
“Together with other government agencies you are required to spearhead compliance of safety measures already put in place by Ministry of Health to contain and mitigate the spread of coronavirus disease within the school community,” said Nancy Macharia, TSC Chief Executive Officer.
Macharia, in the December 28 circular, said the commission has constituted a Covid-19 Technical and Response Team at the head office to coordinate and receive all reports from the officers.
At the school level, teachers are required to constitute institutional Covid-19 response committees to coordinate response strategies.
The teams will comprise five members, including one learner/trainee, one non-teaching staff, one BoM member and two teachers.
The directive by TSC means the government will now rely on teachers for the successful re-opening of schools, including adherence to the safety protocols.
This comes as it emerged that primary and secondary school heads said their institutions were ill-prepared to hold many learners, citing inadequate hand-washing points and classrooms for required social distancing.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha insisted the opening day for all learners remains January 4.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has also advised that schools must reopen now, citing negative effects of delayed reopening.
“The best place for children to be now is in schools because even at home they are not isolated. The negative effects of prolonged stay out of school is devastating and it is paramount the children go back to school,” said Marilyn Hoar, Unicef Chief of Education.
Primary and secondary school heads have cited lack of funds for inadequate preparation of schools, with fears that more infections may be noted when schools open.
And to protect all children and staff in schools, the TSC now directs all field officers to conduct physical monitoring and evaluation of all schools once they open to ensure safety and welfare of learners and staff.
And while in schools, the TSC directs that field officers liaise with school administrators to receive feedback on any challenges experienced in implementing the health protocols.
“Identify risks and deploy swift actions to mitigate such risks to safeguard effective curriculum implementation,” said Macharia.
The officers will also be required to create a clear channel of communication and provide support and guidance to all institutional administrators.
“Regional directors will be required to liaise with the Covid-19 Technical and Response Team at the head office and provide status reports on all challenges experienced on a daily basis,” she said.
The TSC officers will be required to coordinate with the Ministry of Health and other trained teachers to offer psycho-social support to learners and teachers adversely affected by the disease.
Teachers will be required to develop criteria of identifying learners/trainees and staff who may require specialised psycho-social support and link them to certified counsellors or social workers.
TSC further directs that administrative measures to ensure no interruption of the school calendar activities be put in place.
The directive by the TSC will put pressure on school heads, who will bear the greatest responsibility of containing Covid-19 in schools.
According to Ministry of Education guidelines on safe reopening, headteachers will be required to make plans to receive learners and also guarantee their safety and cleanliness during their stay in schools.
The document titled ‘Guidelines on health and safety protocols for reopening of basic education institutions amid Covid-19 pandemic’ provides guidance on measures for physical re-opening, early detection and control of Covid-19 in educational institutions.
Once schools open, headteachers will be required to ensure the right class sizes are maintained to ensure adherence to social distancing.
They will also be required to develop protocols on hygiene and social distancing measures to be put in place before re-opening.
According to the guidelines, headteachers will be required to stock up their institutions with key supplies, including disinfectants, liquid soaps, non-touch thermometers, face masks and first aid kits.