#schoolsafety | Let safety be guiding issue in deciding new school calendar : The Standard

Caught up in the coronavirus dilemma are millions of Kenya’s learners.

A dangerous trend is cropping up — that of Kenyans throwing caution to the wind and resuming their ‘normal’ lives in disregard of the safeguards issued against the novel coronavirus. As of yesterday, Kenya’s coronavirus cases had hit 1,161, with Ministry of Health officials blaming the rising numbers on care-free behaviour worsened by poverty, and technological and logistical inadequacies. 

The fury of the virus knows no bounds. With a shrinking economy that has led to job losses, virtually everyone is now affected by what promises to have a predictably disastrous political, social and economic impact. 
Caught up in the coronavirus dilemma are millions of Kenya’s learners. The deadline for giving views to a special education committee formed to examine what it will take to rework the school calendar lapsed yesterday, with little hopes that classroom learning would resume anytime soon. The Covid-19 Education Response Committee has been grappling with various sticky issues.
There’s the raging storm over the efficiency and cost of virtual learning and its cost, whether or not parents should pay full fees for second term, and if calls to postpone exams would suffice in the wake of the Covid-19 scare. Ultimately, however, the Sarah Ruto-led committee must consult widely and make decisions that will not predispose innocent learners to grave dangers. The fact that the deadline for submission of views has lapsed should not make the team turn a blind eye to emerging concerns. Schools were shut in March and forecasts that the infections may peak in August to September points to the possible loss of an academic year. 

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This is not the time for rushed or populist decisions. Already, there are concerns from some teacher unions that their views have not been sought by the committee. The workings of the education task force should inspire confidence.
Deliberate effort should be made to ensure that we do not gamble with the lives of children, who by the nature of socialisation may not adhere to safeguards on physical distance.
Finding the right response to this new disease is key. Schools should not be reopened for the sake of ensuring the education calendar is back on track. The guiding principle here should be the safety of learners.

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