Education is the key to success and many believe that education is the ticket out of poverty. As such, many parents strive to educate their children so as to give them a better future. In Kenya, the government made education a necessity along with food, shelter, and clothing. This led to waiving of tuition fees for all public schools on a primary level thus allowing most children to receive a basic education. It seemed like the country was making good progress in the sector with more people, even in remote areas, embracing education.
However, learning in Kenya, and all over the world, was disrupted early last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools were forced to close and students returned home without a clear timeline of when normal learning would return. Learners stayed out of school for the rest of the year which affected their education process in different ways.
The rising cases of teen pregnancies during the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the future of education for the girl child from vulnerable backgrounds. It was quite disappointing that on top of a pandemic, school-going girls were now getting pregnant due to staying at home. It was reported that over 4,000 girls from Machakos county had gotten pregnant during the lockdown period. The government expressed disappointment at the negligence of both the leaders and parents.
Evidence shows that girls from rural areas and informal settlements are most likely to be used to earn some income for their families. Therefore, some may resort to selling their bodies without knowing the risks of pregnancies and diseases. Though there are policies that provide for the re-entry of pregnant girls to complete their education, the girls still face stigma in society. Additionally, it may take a while before such policies are fully implemented.
Nutrition was also greatly affected once schools were abruptly closed due to COVID-19. Most children from needy families in rural and informal settlements rely on school feeding programs for their daily nutrition. Their parents struggle to make ends meet with or without a pandemic. As such, when schools closed, they were left without an assured source of food. The government stepped in to donate foodstuff to needy families in some areas. However, it was still a concern that most parents would prioritize securing food over education. This disrupted the children’s learning process while at home.
Homeschooling isn’t a new concept but it became more popular once normal schooling was shut down. Parents were encouraged to provide learning materials for their children and offer assistance in learning. As such, many media outlets started airing educational programs for students who might not have access to the internet.
The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) also provided timetables for students in primary and secondary levels. It acted as a guide for parents and students in planning their classes. The timetable was easily accessible to everybody whether they had an internet connection or not.
However, having an internet connection was an added advantage during homeschooling. Students and parents were able to access a wide variety of resources. They were also able to conduct virtual classes with their fellow learners through zoom and skype.
Given that schools closed even before the first semester was over, questions arose as to whether students would have to repeat classes once learning resumed. Education CS Magoha issued a statement saying that all learners except those who were sitting for their final examination (K.C.P.E and K.C.S.E) would remain in the same class once schools reopened. Of course, this was met with a lot of resistance from parents. They had to bear the financial burden of educating their children twice.
Psychology experts also came to their defense opposing the government’s decision to force students to repeat a class. They suggest that such a move could have a negative impact on the child’s psychology. Since the pandemic had already demoralized them, repeating classes could further dampen their spirits. Instead, they suggest that students should be allowed to join the next class and learn whatever they didn’t in the previous class while in the new one.
In higher learning institutions, classes resumed back in September 2020 and the President issued a directive to review the 2021 academic calendar for the remaining students. Students in primary and secondary school would resume classes in January for their second term then break in March 2021 to allow K.C.P.E and K.C.S.E candidates to sit for their exams. They will then return to school to complete their third term.
There was a common concern of widespread coronavirus infections once schools reopened. As such, the government issued safety guidelines to avoid an outbreak in schools. First, students had to go through a rigorous screening before admittance. Every school is required to have a thermal gun, washing station, and extra masks. In the school compound, students, teachers, and other staff are required to wear masks at all times. Classrooms have also reduced in numbers so as to allow social distancing between learners. However, headteachers and principals have expressed concern that they’re not adequately funded to fully implement these guidelines.
Learning has resumed in the country and things look like they’re getting back to normal. There hasn’t been any spike in COVID-19 cases since schools re-opened which shows that the institutions are following strict guidelines to ensure the students’ safety.