Education CS George Magoha has said schools are the safest environment for learners, even as the Covid-19 infection rate continues to surge.
Magoha’s remarks come amid undertones to have schools fully reopen for learners yet to report back eight months since closure in March.
The CS on Monday said the ministry will today Wednesday engage President Uhuru Kenyatta over a plan to fully reopen learning institutions, hinting on possible resumption for in-person teaching and learning for all classes. This includes those in pre-primary, Grades 1-3, Class 5-7 and Form 1-3.
“[Regarding] opening for other students, there is consultations in all government levels… On [November] 4th, we will engage with the President then we will call for our internal meeting,” Magoha said on Monday.
Around the world, schools have remained open even as countries head to a second round of lockdown following a surge in virus infections.
On Saturday, for instance, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a return on partial lockdown between November 5 and December 2. However, schools, child care centres, universities, and colleges will remain open on medical advice.
In a statement, the PM remarked that the decision was reached following the advice of senior clinicians that school is the best place for children to be.
“I urge parents to continue taking their children to school and I am so grateful to teachers for their dedication in enabling schools to remain open,” Johnson said.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that schools would be exempt from wide-reaching nationwide restrictions that are to take effect beginning Friday.
Germany and Ireland have also allowed schools to remain open despite renewing restriction in public spaces such as bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls etc.
On Thursday, Magoha had said the ministry would soon meet stakeholders to reach consensus on the reopening of schools.
“As we watch this week, let’s us not be too intrusive… We are hoping for the very best…at the right time, we shall open for the rest of the students” Magoha said on Monday.
The CS spoke as he inspected the delivery of desks bought under a Sh1.9 billion tender stimulus package at Mukuru Primary School in Nairobi.
Those in support of reopening point to the possible learning losses that closing schools could cause on learners.
Medical experts note that the rate of coronavirus transmission in schools is relatively low, especially among the youngest students.
Despite the uncertainty, experts argue against reclosure.
Amref Health Africa CEO Githinji Gitahi says closure cannot serve as a long-term solution.
Gitahi says the initial closure was meant to prepare schools, noting that at the time, learning institutions “didn’t have sanitiser and hand washing booths. Now these things are available”.
“The important thing is how to do precision public health. So we only close clusters of origin. If one person coughs you can’t give everyone cough syrup,” he added.
However, there are mixed reactions on whether to fully reopen schools.
Kenya Parents Association chairperson Nicholas Maiyo said staff members and parents are still in danger of catching the virus and spreading it.
Maiyo argued that with 70 per cent of learners in the country attending day school, there is a challenge on the safety of parents when learners return home.
“Family members who are threatened because they are older or have compromised immune systems. There are no perfect answers, so it is a matter of balancing one set of risks against another,” Maiyo said.