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KNUT Sec-Gen Cautions Government On Reopening Schools

The Secretary-General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers, Hon. Wilson Sossion has come out to call for extreme caution from the government while they undertake the central task of reopening schools.

Sossion noted, in his blog to The Daily Nation, the importance of the safety and well-being of the students and staff, and urged the authorities to prioritize it.

“In that case, the health, safety, and the wellbeing of students, teachers, and support staff should be accorded special priority. A back-to-school roadmap that minimizes, not only the immediate impact of the closure but also addresses the long-term safety precautions, is a prerequisite for a return to school.” Mr. Sossion wrote.

Covid-19 Cases Have Dropped By Over 50 Percent

According to reports, the country’s Covid-19 cases have dropped by over 50 percent, with laboratory test positivity rate also declining from 12 percent to seven percent.

The World Health Organization (WHO), however, doesn’t agree with these numbers and there are some health experts, who argue that the latest testing results by the Health ministry mask the true situation.

Kenya has 11.9 million learners in public basic education institutions with close to 350,000 teachers of on Teachers Service Commission (TSC) payroll and over 30,000 non-teaching staff in public schools. Private schools have their population to take care of.

“Come Up With Clear Policy Guidelines To Prevent The Spread Of Covid-19 In Schools”, Urged Sossion

The general secretary urged the government to
come up with clear policy guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in schools with the establishment of a committee in each institution to ensure the full enforcement of health protocols. The school community must be provided with accurate education, information, guidance, and timely updates regarding the pandemic.

He emphasized the need for adequate space in the school facilities to encourage social distancing and safe transport for the teachers.

“Adequate learning space must be assured to facilitate safe social distancing between the learners and teachers and the modes of travel to and from school outlined.” He wrote.

He called for continuous voluntary testing of teachers, students, and support staff at no charge. Institutions, as recommended by WHO and UNICEF, should have temporary isolation rooms and sick bays run by health professionals for those who test positive for Covid-19 while in school. Where teachers and learners test positive, resumption of classes must only happen after full recovery.

Additional Teachers and Education Support Personnel

The General Secretary called for adequate teachers and education support personnel, supplicated with consistent follow-ups on students, including the impaired.

“As a matter of priority, the government should provide adequate teachers and education support personnel to effectively handle the extra classes and provide the requisite support and services to meet the new conditions.

It should also ensure the return of all learners, including those with disabilities, and equity audits undertaken to identify those who don’t show up. Concrete measures should be taken to prevent and deal with Covid-19 stigma and discrimination.” He wrote.

Support of Learners, And Teachers with Pre-Existing Health Conditions

He urged the Health Ministry to formulate guidelines on how to support learners and teachers with pre-existing health conditions such as HIV/Aids, diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, as well as mechanisms to address symptoms of mental illness.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) — face masks, gloves and aprons/dust coats — for teachers and support staff are to be provided and their use enforced.

The Education Ministry, according to Mr. Sossion, should provide face masks for all learners and continuous cleaning and fumigation of schools and education environment is equally essential.

The Knut general secretary concluded his article invoking the government to ensure social dialogue mechanisms are in place to facilitate continuous engagement with teachers and education support personnel through their representatives. This would be essential in developing and implementing effective safety and health measures.

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