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Mixed Feelings As School Heads Ordered To Get Data On Pregnant Students

The Ministry of Education has put teachers back to work, asking them to collect data on girls who have become pregnant during this Covid-19 pandemic. This call of duty has stirred confusion and it’s not clear how they will do it. Schools remain closed due to the pandemic.

The circular issued by basic education Permanent secretary Belio Kipsang states that the headteachers need to cooperate with the ministry of interior and coordination of national government and ministry of health to get full information on the identity and whereabouts of the pregnant school girls.

Thursday, July the 23rd is the Deadline to Submit the Data

July 23 is the deadline given to principals and head teachers to forward the information to the ministry headquarters.

“The purpose of this letter is to have all regions, counties and sub-counties collect data on girls who are currently expecting and those who have recently given birth and could be potential dropouts when schools reopen,” read the circular dated July 14.

The circular was sent to all regional directors of education, county directors, and sub-county directors of education. This was a week after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered investigations into the pregnancies.

Prof Magoha said that teachers are helping national government administrators in data collection of students who could have been defiled at home. He added that chiefs and their assistants were working to establish the number of girls that have been impregnated while at home.

“I am interested to find out the number of learners who are pregnant. Teachers are working with chiefs to find this out because they are both serving the same government”, the CS said.

MoE Lacks Accurate Data on Number of Impregnated Teenagers

He also pointed at the fact that the ministry of education lacks accurate data on the number of teenagers impregnated during this pandemic.

Probability of Post Covid-19 Student Drop Outs Is High, Officials Warn
14-year-old girl holding her baby at her sister’s home. (Photo: Human Rights Watch)

He said the government will issue correct data after the chiefs and teachers collect the information from respective schools.

“I am equally puzzled about the data that is being released purporting to show the number of learners who have been impregnated. I believe the numbers could have been exaggerated for unknown reasons,” the CS said.

He spoke on Saturday at Asumbi Teachers training college in Rangwe constituency in Homa bay county as he inspected whether they were prepared for the reopening of institutions. He did this in the company of Range MP Lilian Gogo who expressed her trouble with the surge in defilement cases that contribute to teenage pregnancies. She said teenage mothers deserve a second chance to go back to school after delivery.

KESSHA’s Response on the Collection Data On Pregnant Students

Kenya Secondary school Heads Association (KESSHA) chairman Kahi Indimuli pointed at the difficulty in data collection, saying it’s a difficult task as it will force principals and head teachers to call parents and guardians and ask them whether their children are pregnant, which is very embarrassing.

“Do you think a parent will tell you that their girl is pregnant?” He asked, adding that school administrators are being asked to do unimaginable and impractical things.

He instead recommended the involvement of village leaders, ward administrators, chiefs and assistant chiefs to follow up girls in their jurisdiction. He said the girls would give details of their schools.

Mr. Indimuli noted that it was hard to tell whether girls were pregnant at school since tests were banned in order to preserve their privacy.

Nicholas Gathemia, the chairman of the Kenya primary school heads association said it wouldn’t be hard for rural primary school heads because most of their pupils are in the locality.

He warned, however, that asking for this data from school heads would give inaccurate data as they may be accused of giving false information or defaming the girls.

“With the current generation, a girl can be pregnant today and tomorrow you find that they are not. How will a headteacher prove those allegations?” he said.

Teen pregnancies Data Hard to Collect in Urban Schools

Mr. Gathemia said it would be impossible for some headteachers in urban schools to collect data as some students will have moved to the village or changed location.

Kenya has recently reported a rise in teen pregnancies and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) with the cases being attributed to Covid-19 lockdown.

On July 6, Pres Kenyatta sanctioned the National crime research center to probe the vice in 30 days and report back to him.

Dr. Kipsang, in his circular, stated that the government intended to come up with an intervention on reentry when schools reopen in 2021 because the pandemic had exposed learners at home to different challenges that would affect their education and lives, among which are, child abuse to both girls and boys, sexual abuse and early pregnancies.

Paul Kibet, the director of secondary education has also written to Dr. Kipsang informing him that principals need to get to work and collect data.

“Media reports indicate that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed and this is more so as it caught the attention of the president”, said Mr. Kibet.

However, a section of headteachers and principals haven’t welcomed the directive of the ministry, explaining that tracking these pupils and students that are at home with their parents would not be easy at all.

” How do we get to follow a child who is with their parents and when schools are closed? Principals are not magicians,” said a headteacher in Nyandarua.

In several sub-counties, some principals believe it can be done when teachers are recalled back to school to contact their learners. Some directors of education have started asking school heads to recall their teachers.

In some of the memos dated July 14 by Robert Maritim, Tiaty West sub-county director of education direct school leaders, and teachers to keep watch of the schools.

Most Learning Institutions Unmanned

“This is to inform you that reports reaching us indicate that most learning institutions in our sub-county are left unmanned in the day and at night, therefore exposing our institutions to vandalism and theft,” reads the memo.

The ministry is directing principals to ensure schools are guarded day and night, deploying teachers on duty and making sure that offices, classrooms, and dormitories are locked to prevent thieves from breaking in.

The move has been fought by heads as they were directed to work from home. Mr. Indimuli said school heads were ensuring that schools are safe as they continue to work from home as they were directed by teachers’ employers.

TSC, according to him, directed teachers to work from home to shield them from getting infected with the coronavirus.

Mr. Gathemia however, said that teachers should not turn into workers who clear bushes and watch at night because their role is to teach learners, and they are dignified people who shouldn’t be perceived as idle, and their health and safety should be guaranteed.

“Our employer directed us to stay home, but that doesn’t mean we’re idle”, he said.

Last week, teachers on social media were angry after allegations were reported that they were earning a salary while they were out of school.

The teacher’s employer however said that they would continue paying their teachers despite the closure of schools because they shouldn’t be punished for the pandemic they didn’t cause.

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