More learners may be recalled to return to schools as early as next week, as the government implements the phased reopening plan.
The Standard has established that a critical decision has been made to open schools for a few more classes in primary and secondary institutions.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha yesterday hinted at the move but said that due process of calling stakeholders to ratify the decision would be followed for collective responsibility purposes.
“It shall be a very well informed decision that may have consequences, but then everybody will be responsible for those consequences,” said Prof Magoha.
He said President Uhuru Kenyatta would chair a national consultative meeting for governors and other critical stakeholders, which will kick-start consensus building on reopening for additional classes.
“There is consultation at every level of government and as you are aware President Uhuru Kenyatta will engage governors and other stakeholders on November 4,” said Magoha.
An Education sector stakeholders meeting will then be convened to refine and agree on which classes may reopen and when they shall start classes.
“We shall then decide when to call our own internal stakeholders so that we make a decision for children who are at home,” said Magoha.
Magoha spoke after assessing learning and delivery of desks for schools at Mukuru Primary School in Mukuru Kayaba, Nairobi.
Laying the ground for the reopening plans for the rest of classes, Magoha said most parents had endorsed reopening of schools.
“Majority of parents are saying can we have the other children at school because there are others who are there,” said Magoha.
This came as the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and Amref Health Africa weighed in, supporting reopening schools for the rest of learners.
A joint statement by Unicef Kenya Representative Maniza Zaman and Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO of Amref Health Africa, says as the government considers further reopening of schools, they will weigh the risks and benefits of such a measure.
“Based on all available evidence, that the risks to children of being out of school are much higher than the risks they encounter in schools, it is important to remember that closing schools does not take children out of contact with each other and with adults,” reads the statement.
The two officials argued that keeping children from school takes them out of a protective school environment, in which their interactions can be controlled.
“This is why we are supportive of the government’s phased reopening of schools – it allows schools to open with lower numbers of children and gives them time to increase the numbers as they learn how to manage safety and mitigate risks.” The view is supported by Private Schools Association, which said children were safer in schools than at home.
“The greatest infections are now in homes and not in schools because while in the institutions we take care and ensure the children comply. The best place for children to be now is in school under watchful eyes of teachers,” said Mutheu Kasanga, Private Schools Association chair. National Parents Association Chairperson Nicholas Maiyo yesterday said their stand on reopening schools stood.
“We said once virus infections hit below 5 per cent, we shall accept to bring our children to schools. But we shall listen to the proposals during the stakeholders meeting if we shall be invited,” said Mr Maiyo.
Magoha yesterday said children in schools would continue undertaking their lessons and ruled out shutting the institutions.
“We have decided, as government, that for now, children who are in school should continue being there because life must continue as long as we obey protocols that have been given,” said Magoha.
“Children in school are all masked. They are better and safer at school and that is a very strong point that we shall continue to keep them in school,” said Magoha.
Secondary school heads, however, called on the teachers’ employer to enhance the medical scheme to cover pandemics such as Covid 19.
“We have come to realise that we are not covered during pandemics and as frontline workers we want the scheme cover enhanced,” said Kahi Indimuli, Kenya Secondary School Heads Association national chair.