Seven months after the first COVID-19 case was reported in the country, schools have been reopened for the remainder of the 2020 school calendar.  In a move that was meant to be a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the disease in learning institutions, the government ordered that all schools be shut. Months later, the doors to these institutions have been opened though, not fully.

Fast forward to October and the phased reopening of learning institutions kicks off today with all the candidate classes of 2020 reporting back to school. Despite Covid-19 being present in the country, the government took the hard stance to allow students back into schools. The reopening comes with tough measures to safeguard the health of the students.

Every student will be required to have their masks on throughout. They will also have to adhere to the one-meter rule that allows for social distancing. Schools have also been mandated to provide handwashing stations around the premises of the school.  In a contrast to the norm, dormitories and classes will also have to change to adhere to the social distancing measures. Contact sports and extra-curricular activities have also been put on hold to avoid the spread of COVID-19 among students.

Students seating for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams

With more than 1.2 million Standard Eight candidates, 700,000 Form Four candidates and  1.6 million Grade Four pupils resuming physical classes, all eyes are on the government and school administrations to keep the students safe. The reopening that was sudden sent shockwaves around the country. Coming just a few weeks after the economy was reopened and while the country is still reeling from the financial turmoil caused by the pandemic, parents are worried about the safety of their children. There are also concerns about the financial implications caused by this decision to reopen schools as some are finding it hard to raise fees and buy learning materials.

The decision to reopen schools, though in phases, was to address implications that would have been caused had the school calendar been scraped away completely. With most universities and colleges continuing with virtual learning, there would have been a vacuum had the form four candidates not reported to schools to sit their KCSE exams that determines their transition to higher learning institutions. Other factors like the increase in teen pregnancies also facilitated the move to reopen schools.

Education CS Prof. George Magoha had also said that the reopening of schools would depend on how the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic was going. For the past few weeks, the country has seen a drastic decrease in the number of positive cases giving the indication that the curve was flattening and the time was ripe to go back to school.

Education CS George Magoha

“We are back, but the COVID-19 protocols must be followed. Teachers must ensure that the learners are well protected and they have masks on,” said Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha while monitoring the reopening of schools in Kibra, Nairobi County. He also directed headteachers to identify and compile a list of all learners with pre-existing conditions. “That is very important because it will help to know who has a pre-existing condition so as to get special COVID-19 attention,” he said.

The change in the school calendar has seen the normal term dates rescheduled. The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) that is usually sat in the last weeks of October will now take place from March 22, 2021, to March 24, 2021. The Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education will now start on March 25, 2021, and end on April 16, 2021. This deviates from the norm where KCSE exams are held in the month of November.

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Despite the government setting the ball rolling for physical classes, it still remains a mystery as to when the other classes will be able to join their compatriots. With consultations still ongoing, parents and stakeholders will be holding their breaths to know when the other students will be able to report.