Learners will increase teacher infections when schools fully reopen

Learners will increase teacher infections when schools fully reopen

Teachers are likely to be at high risk of Covid-19 infection when schools resume in January as they will become frontline workers.

Learners, who will be returning from a nine-month break, will increase the chances of teacher infections as the tutors will also be charged with the responsibility of ensuring adherence to Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

This means that teachers, who will be handling over 15 million learners, will join medics as frontline workers.

Despite the Ministry of Education issuing health guidelines warning offenders of dire consequences, funding to schools has remained a major challenge, and there is expected breach of the protocols.

Schools will be expected to accommodate all the learners in their institutions despite the ministry admitting that social distancing remains the greatest challenge.

For boarding schools, learners will be travelling from different parts of the country, including counties that have reported high prevalence of Covid-19 cases.

The ministry has since dismissed any possibilities of testing children and teachers for Covid-19 before reporting back to school in January, further complicating matters.

Since schools partially reopened, a number of teachers have contracted coronavirus, with others losing the battle to the virus in various parts of the country.

Hundreds of learners have also been reported to have contracted the disease. When all learners resume schools, teachers will be required to establish psychosocial support programmes to help them cope with the pandemic.

For learners who are below nine years, class teachers will be required to meet them at the institution gate at the start of the day and escort them to the exit at pick-up times to limit the number of outsiders entering the learning institutions.

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has since assured teachers of its support in fighting the pandemic as they continue handling learners. 

TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia said on Monday that the commission has negotiated with the teacher’s medical provider for them to be treated for all Covid-19-related illnesses.

Ms Macharia asked teachers to continue observing social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands regularly while in schools.

“I request teachers not to drop the ball in the quest to make adherence to these protocols a social norm. These practices must be deeply entrenched in the learners’ DNA,” said Ms Macharia.

The commission has also established a scheme helpline assistance and treatment coordination for Covid-19 cases.

TSC has since asked teachers aged 58 and above, and those with pre-existing conditions to work from home as much as possible. Ms Macharia said the teachers can be utilised in offering critical duties such as preparing schemes of work, teaching aids and marking.

Meanwhile, the Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General Wilson Sossion, yesterday asked the government to focus on making schools safe for both learners and teachers ahead of the full reopening.

“Making schools safe is the most important thing that the Ministry of Education should be focusing on between now and January,” said Mr Sossion.

He said the business of transferring the cost of face masks to parents will expose many learners and teachers to the virus.

“The government must provide funding to enable schools to procure enough reusable masks for learners. Without good quality masks for learners, we will be risking the lives of teachers,” he said.

Mr Sossion said when children report to school without masks, they will expose teachers to the disease.

Mr Sossion said the government should consider allocating Sh3 billion per year, in the next three years to purchase enough reusable masks to be supplied to schools.

He said schools should also be given enough money to buy sanitisers and personal protective equipment, which they can use in case Covid-19 cases are reported among learners.

The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers Secretary-General Akelo Misori said the government should provide enough funding for improvement of schools infrastructure.

“The infrastructure capacity should be improved to ensure teachers and learners are safe and that there will be minimal transmission when learners report back to school.”

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