During a virtual summit, President Uhuru Kenyatta also told governors the decision to re-open the economy will be informed by counties’ preparedness to respond to Covid-19 infections. The president chaired the summit that brought together Deputy President William Ruto as well as 46 governors to seek a consensus on safety measures to be enforced prior to reopening the country currently under a nationwide night curfew and travel restrictions.
Discussions at the forum indicated schools are far from reopening this year as experts warned about the challenge of enforcing social distance in 40,000 schools with a population of 14 million, and the risk to the lives of children should schools resume before the peak of coronavirus.
Uhuru reminded Kenyans that it was not the first time for the school calendar to be disrupted, as such an experience was witnessed in 1982 after the August failed coup, which saw learning suspended until the following year.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said looking at the population of students versus facilities, it was difficult to implement social distancing in schools and that informs the reluctance to reopen the learning institutions.
“I will advise not to open schools when the infections from the disease are rising. We propose that school clusters be attached to a health facility before we can open,” said Magoha. Prof Magoha, who is a medic by profession, posed: “When a child has fever what do you do to avoid panic in the school? Do you shut down the school and send all pupils home? Pupils may have fever from other ailments, not necessarily from Covid-19.”
It emerged only exam candidates – Standard Eight and Form Four students – may be allowed back to school to write their exams as their 11 million counterparts stay at home longer. Kenya has 12 million pupils and students in schools.
“We have to fashion ourselves towards the new normal until we have a vaccine. It is too risky to open schools and risk the lives of young Kenyans. Let us look at possibility of candidates only who number about 1.5 million and open up for them to write exams,” suggested Ruto, who followed proceedings from his Karen office.
But were the schools to reopen, Magoha explained measures which are meant at reducing spread of the disease would be observed, saying pupils and students will not share equipment or books or even masks.
Schools will have to undergo regular fumigation and cleaning with dedicated water supply to compliment hygiene efforts.Teams were tasked to explore guidelines to inform possible reopening of the economy, schools and worship places in early July with strict health protocols.
All eyes will be on President Kenyatta on July 6, during an address to the nation when he is expected to announce new measures to fashion Kenya around the new normal of the reality of working and living with Covid-19.
Technical teams dealing with various sectors and interest groups have up to July 5 to deliver ‘irreducible minimum’ protocols to be adopted in the phased approach to opening up the country.Sources intimated curfew may still be in force for yet another month after all, but travel between counties may be allowed.
The president said the decision will largely be determined by the counties capacity to effectively respond to new cases of Covid-19 imported into their territories. “County readiness to respond to new imported cases of infection will largely determine our national readiness to re-open the country as a whole. I say this because the nation is the sum total of all the 47 counties.
If the counties have met the necessary thresholds, then the nation will be ready to re-open,” Uhuru told the meeting of the national and county governments coordinating summit that was also attended by representatives of religious and business sectors.
“There are things which cannot wait. We have churches, mosques and temples waiting to reopen for prayers, but we must develop and agree on the protocols for each sector,” Ruto said.