Magoha: Schools could reopen earlier than January 2021

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 25 Aug, 2020 15:11 | 4 mins read
Prof George Magoha
Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof George Magoha, at a past function. [PHOTO | FILE]
Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof George Magoha, at a past function. PHOTO | FILE

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha now says the government is mulling over the reopening of schools earlier than the planned January 2021 resumption date should the COVID-19 curve in the country flatten.

Speaking in Migori County, where he visited various learning institutions to evaluate their state of preparedness for COVID-19 emergency, the minister said the number of new coronavirus infections have been declining steadily in the recent past, prompting a possible review of Kenya’s education calendar.

“It appears the virus’ spread is stagnating,” said Magoha, who addressed journalists at the office of Migori Governor Okoth Obado on Tuesday, August 25.

“Should the situation change [that the number of new COVID-19 infections continue to dip, contrary to earlier projection that the figures would go high in September and October 2020], then we shall be ready and willing to look at the scenario once again in the interest of our children,” added the minister, implying that Kenya’s education calendar is up for review.

“Our intention as government is to ensure schools are reopened as early as yesterday. However, the bottom-line is our children should be safe when they return [to school]. [As a ministry], we are doing everything possible, including making water and sanitizer points available in schools. We’ll go to the extent of providing face masks, where possible,” he added.

On July 7, 2020, Magoha said the Ministry in consultation with relevant stakeholders had resorted to pushing back the 2020 Academic Calendar to January 2021.

Addressing journalists at the KICD Headquarters in Nairobi, the minister said basic learning institutions will reopen in January 2021.

Prof. Magoha further said that the 2020 KCPE exams will be held “later in 2021”.

The minister, however, remained silent on the fate of KCSE exams, which are assumed will also be held in 2021.

Prof. Magoha directed the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) to republish new examination dates.

“Stakeholders have shelved the initial proposal to reopen basic learning institutions in September for Standard Eight and Form Four candidate classes,” said Magoha.

“If there will be two Form One classes in 2021 academic year, the country will experience very severe equity challenges, when only two basic institution classes (Class Eight and Form Four) reopen, while all the other children lose the year.

“Although the 2020 Form Four Class would have left, the total number of candidature in Form Four is 752, 000 as compared to approximately 1.2 million, which could mean if we had the intention of using the space left by Form Four students, we’ll be having a deficit of 438, 000. Therefore it will be impossible to achieve social distancing. We’ll also be unable to have physical classes for this huge number.

“All learners in Grade 1 to 4, Standard 5 to 7 and Form 1 to 3, will remain in their current classes in 2021. Therefore, there shall be no KCPE exams in later 2021 because it would be impossible for the students to cover the syllabus of 5 terms in one year,” said Magoha.

Declaring the 2020 school academic calendar lost due to COVID-19, the CS said the decision was arrived at after factoring in the contribution of Education stakeholders, among them parents, who said they “won’t release their children to resume studies until the COVID-19 curve is flattened”.

“Over 90 per cent of parents have expressed reservations of sending back their children to school until the [COVID-19] curve flattens. Faced with this uncertain environment, stakeholders have resolved to reopen all basic institutions in January [2021] based on the assumption that the curve would have flattened, or we would have known a little more about this virus,” said Magoha, revealing that if necessary, the Ministry would revisit the academic calendar matter, particularly when the COVID-19 infections pattern changes.

On July 30, 2020 Magoha announced that college and university students will have to stay longer at home after the Ministry of Education resolved to have face-to-face classes resume in January 2021, and not from September this year as had earlier been planned.

Magoha said the pushing back of the tertiary institutions’ academic calendar was arrived at after closely evaluating the COVID-19 infections pattern in Kenya.

“A survey of all Teacher Training Colleges, universities and TVET institutions has shown that few of them have put in place necessary measures to comply with the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 protocols that can guarantee safety of staff and learners once they reopen,” he said.

“Universities should continue offering virtual learning, examinations and virtual graduations but in strict adherence and observance to quality measures set by the Commission for University Education.”

Kenya as of Monday, August 24, 2020 had registered 32, 557 COVID-19 cases, with 554 deaths recorded and 18, 895 recoveries booked.

For the past one week, the number of new COVID-19 infections have been declining, with the lowest fresh infections in recent past -- 193 -- recorded on Monday, August 24 out of a sample size of 3,381. A day earlier, 246 new cases were discovered in 4,179 samples. This pattern, prompted the Acting Director-General of Health, Dr. Patrick Amoth, to state Kenya has made significant progress in the war against COVID-19.

“For the past one week or so, you have noticed a decreasing positivity rate, which as of today stands at 6 per cent. That tells you we are making progress, but we have not hit the magical 5 per cent which we need to hit and sustain for two weeks before we can actually say we are flattening the curve,” Dr. Amoth said on Monday, August 24.

“So, the next three to four weeks will be critical to determine whether we have hit the magical 5 per cent. If we sustain that positivity rate, then we can conclusively say we have flattened the curve, and, therefore, we can be able to lift the remaining COVID-19 containment measures,” said Dr. Amoth.

Positivity rate is gotten by dividing the number of new infections with the sample size and thereafter multiplying the result by 100. The World Health Organization (WHO) says when the positivity rate is below 5 per cent for at least 14 days, then a country is said to have flattened the COVID-19 curve.