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Schools May Reopen before January 2021, says CS Magoha

We should probably lean more on the word ‘May’ since the conditions for reopening are not that simple. However, it will be good news to parents and students who have been stuck at home following the closure of schools in March. The closure of all learning institutions was done by the government to try to curb the spread of the now global Coronavirus pandemic.

Cabinet Secretary of Education Prof George Magoha has hinted reopening of schools before January 2021. This mainly owes to the fact that new coronavirus cases have declined recently.

Speaking in Migori County as the CS of Education toured institutions to access their preparedness, he said that if the trend continues going and then the curve flattens, then his ministry will consider looking at the academic calendar.

However, what flattening of the curve may mean is all another matter. It is probably impossible for the curve to flatten at zero cases and a flattening of the curve at a certain constant figure may not be ideal as all we wish for our children is to stay healthy and alive if they do end up going back to school after all.  Overall, we feel that if the conditions for reopening will be suitable, then ‘open schools’ we go.

“You know that the virus is beginning to look like stagnating. We are saying that if this continues, we will be ready and willing to look at the scenario once again in the interest of our children,” said Prof Magoha.

However, the CS insisted that the reopening of schools will only happen when it is safe and masks provided to children attending school.

“As far as the government is concerned, we could open learning institutions like yesterday…the bottom line is our children should be reasonably safe if allowed to return. We are doing all we can including ensuring that sanitizers and water sources are available. We are also in the process of providing masks where possible.”

Magoha’s statement follows his criticism of WHO and UNICEF who have been calling for reopening of schools citing malnutrition and hunger for children who had been accessing meals at school. Additional information on the issue regarding UNICEF and WHO was discussed in this article on this link here.

Besides, the CS called out WHO and UNICEF for trying to turn Africans into Guinea pigs.

Opinion: So should schools be reopened now?

Well, only those experiencing the situation first hand can give the verdict. Money has been released to schools and reversed by the ministry, as they required school heads to explain how it would be used. News on whether that money has been released schools will be provided once verified on Teacher.co.ke.

The situation at the time of writing this article in schools is dire. Some schools do not have access to plenty of water and even masks. Schools generally are normally congested, as the teacher to student ratio has still not been addressed fully. We have classes having almost 70 students per teacher and having physical distancing will not be practically possible in classes and dormitories. This is also not including the staff rooms for teachers, which in some schools are small rooms for the number of teachers, allocated there.

Congestion is usually a bigger problem during serving of meals for students and also when teachers are having their lunch or during the tea break.

Sanitization is also going to be an issue as washing hands without soap or a sanitizer is no guarantee of killing or stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Masks are also going to be an issue as some families have suffered during this coronavirus period struggling to provide the basic needs for their families especially.

Unless all these conditions are met whether the curve flattens or not, reopening of schools will just be a dream until the New Year at least. Besides, there is also the issue of the academic calendar because a normal term for basic education institutions runs for at least three months. This means that schools have to reopen at the start of September. If September passes without reopening, the safer bet will probably be January 2021.

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