President Uhuru has unveiled a plan to ensure all learners report to school next month.
Four ministries are working to ensure all children report to school on January 4, as it emerged President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Sunday directive to chiefs is part of the multi-agency team’s 30-day plan.
It emerged authorities are concerned that given the average turnout for Grade Four, Class Eight and Form Four learners who have been in session is 88 per cent, the number may be worrying once all classes report back to school.
The month-long Rapid Response Initiative campaign, which began on December 5, involves the ministries of Interior, Education, Health and Devolution, working on programmes to support reopening of schools, which were closed in March after the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Kenya.
In his Jamhuri Day address, President Kenyatta directed the Interior ministry to have administration officers account for all children and ensure none will be left at home when others report to school.
“To ensure compliance with this directive, and to guarantee that no child is left behind, I hereby order and direct that the Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government shall, through all chiefs and assistant chiefs, account for all children within the jurisdiction of those officers and also ensure that all children report back to school in January 2021,” said the President.
He also ordered the Ministry of Education to receive reports from all primary and secondary schools, regardless of the system of education they implement, on the identity and details of any child who will not have reported back to school.
According to health protocols, schools are required to ensure social distancing and teachers and pupils are required to wear face masks at all times.
Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia said the four ministries were working to ensure children do not drop out of school because of challenges arising from the prolonged closure of learning institutions.
“We want to start planning early because the long Covid-19 break that has seen majority of classes suspended for 10 months is suspected to have induced a myriad challenges for some of our pupils. We want to honestly capture the real challenge facing us and confront it head-on for the best interest of our pupils,” Mr Kinuthia said in Kigumo town, Murang’a.
Mr Kinuthia cited early pregnancies, indoctrination into crime, early marriages, child labour and substance abuse as the key challenges that might affect reopening numbers.
Mr Kinuthia said pregnant girls who will not be less than two months to their due date will be expected back in class in January.
“Those who will be lactating will be given a two-month break and be expected to resume classes, while all in early marriages, in crime or in illegal employment will be rescued and taken back to class,” he said.
The data sought from school heads will also be important in guiding planning for the national examinations for Standard Eight and Form Four pupils, said Mr Kinuthia, adding: “We will know how many of our examinees will take their exams in hospitals or at home and even if it applies, in juvenile jails.”
“It is now upon us in government to collectively use our structures to identify those who might not be in a position to reopen schools, get the real reason as to why and remedy what can be addressed to ensure the pupil will be back in class,” Mr Kinuthia said.
He said all county security committees had been tasked with tracing all school children in compliance with President Kenyatta’s directive that by day one of reopening turnout is high.
By the close of the second week, an audit report on reopening is to be filed to the President for review and further directives.
“It is for that reason that the President has ordered both the ministry of Education and the National Treasury to ensure that funds are released early enough to ensure operations will kick off almost immediately and that school heads be discouraged from being hard on parents regarding school fees,” said Mr Kinuthia.
Mr Kinuthia said the President has stressed school reopening is being treated as a matter of grave national security “since we are referring to posterity both at family and national level”.