Education Permanent Secretary Belio Kipsang has said teachers aged 58 years and above can resume in-person teaching but should observe Covid-19 protocols.
The PS was speaking during a tour of Mulot Girls high school in Bomet County where he empasized on teachers to ensure they wear masks properly, saying students will wear them properly depending on how teachers wear them.
This comes after TSC appreciated teachers for setting the pace by keeping their masks on and ensuring that the students keep theirs on.
Earlier this month the government had ordered the teachers who fall within Covid-19 high-risk age brackets to work from home.
In the reviewed virus containment measures, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed that all teachers aged above 58 and those with preexisting conditions work from home.
“Teachers and other staff who are aged 58 years or above, or who have preexisting conditions, will deliver on their duties through remote means or by holding their classes in open spaces with the natural flow of air,” a statement issued by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua read.
It was not immediately clear how the 70,000 teachers in this category would be facilitated to work remotely due to poor ICT infrastructure in public schools.
The emphasis by Uhuru on high-risk teachers came months after Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia also directed such staff to work from home as a way of stemming possible effects of the virus.
Macharia directed that these teachers be assigned other duties, as questions arose over the method of working from home.
“They can be utilised in offering critical duties such as preparing schemes of work, teaching aids and marking, among others. We assure them of the safety of their jobs,” she said.
There was, however, fear among staff that TSC may expunge their names from the teachers’ roll.
“No one is sure, especially if the employer finds they can work without your physical presence,” said one of the teachers in Nairobi.
Findings showed that the number of teachers who may be required to work from home is huge and would complicate reopening plans.
It also emerged that most of these teachers fall in the institutions’ management categories – headteachers, deputies or senior teachers – who are expected to offer leadership in the schools.
Data from Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) shows that older teachers aged 45 and above form the bigger part of schools administrators.
A number of these teachers have preexisting conditions. Several junior staff also have preexisting conditions and must be protected.
There are some 23,745 primary school heads with 26,950 deputies. Secondary schools have 9,314 principals and 11,468 deputies.
This brings the total to about 71,477 in management, who may fall within the high-risk age bracket. Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) data shows public schools have 25,000 teachers aged 58 and above.
Of these, some 12,000 are aged above 59 and are due to retire by June this year.
Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori, however, said most of the teachers in high-risk age brackets are willing to work from home.
“Most of these teachers have indicated readiness to work from home,” he said.
The number of teachers who may wish to work from home may however be higher considering that most teachers are predisposed to pre-existing conditions.
A report by Minet Kenya, the teachers’ medical scheme provider, shows that most suffer ailments such as malaria, pneumonitis, anaemia and gastritis.
Other diseases that rank high among teachers are gastro enteritis, septicaemia, anaemia, peptic ulcer disease, hypertension and tonsillitis.
This means that teachers, particularly those in Nairobi, Uasin Gishu, Meru, Nakuru, Bungoma, Kisumu and Kakamega counties, which register a high number of hospital visits, must be protected.
Kuppet estimates that to maintain current staffing levels, Kenya needs 50,000 new teachers this year and a further 15,000 every year for the subsequent five years.
TSC already laid bare its teacher demands ahead of schools reopening in January.
Macharia said plans were on to hire 12,000 additional intern teachers ahead of the opening.