By Mzalendo Amos Kemboi, Nairobi
Once again, the Education sector is at the crossroads.
The crucial sector has had its calendar paralysed for over two months and the scenario is likely to go on for unspecified period of time.
This has plunged stakeholders especially learners and their parents deeper into confusion.
The most affected are candidates expecting to sit for national examinations in primary and secondary schools as well as colleges.
Learning is equally paralysed in institutions of higher learning like universities and this will inevitably prolong the time students will undertake their studies.
However, there is a ray of hope.
Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha recently indicated that despite the rising cases of COVID-19 in Kenya, the Ministry is looking at the possibility of ensuring learning resumes as soon as possible.
The Ministry is concerned that the effects of the pandemic have hurt the basic education sector the most.
The scenario is threatening to wipe out the gains made to stabilize the academic calendar.
In order to avert more damage, Prof Magoha appointed a nine-member committee to take charge of the process of exploring the best possible strategies of restoring normality in the sector.
The Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD) Chairperson Dr. Sarah Ruto is charing the COVID-19 Education Response Committee whose work started with immediate effect.
Prof Magoha inaugurated the team on Tuesday, May 12, 2020 at the KICD, Nairobi.
Members of the Committee include the Chairman, Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KSSHA) Mr. Indimuli Kahi, the Chairman, Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (KPSHA) Mr. Nicholas Gathemia, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) Mr. Peter Ndoro and the Chairman, Kenya Parents Association (KPA)Mr. Nicholas Maiyo.
A representative from the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Ms. Augustine Muthigani and another from the Kenya Association for Independent International Schools Ms. Jane Mwangi are also in the committee.
Nelson Makanda from the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), Sheikh Munawar Khan from the Muslim Education Council and the Chairman, Kenya Special Schools Heads Association Mr Peter Sitienei will also be part of the committee.
The committee will also have six Ex-Officio Members composed of Ms. Ruth Mugambi from KICD, Mr. Patrick Ochich- Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC), Mr. Gabriel Mathenge-Teachers Service Commission (TSC), the Director, Secondary Education, MoE Mr. Paul Kibet, Ms. Anne Gachoya from the Directorate of Policy, Partnerships and EAC and Dr. Loice Ombajo from the Ministry of Health/University of Nairobi.
The Committee is expected to advise the Cabinet Secretary on the reopening of Basic Education institutions (Pre-Primary, Primary, Secondary Schools, Teacher Training Colleges and Adult Education Institutions).
It will also advice on the reviewing and reorganizing the school calendar as part of the COVID-19 post recovery strategy.
Besides, the committee is supposed to guide the Cabinet Secretary on ways of onboarding students/pupils when the schools re-open.
There is also the aspect of documenting all COVID-19 related matters, lessons learnt and recommendations for future preparedness.
The Committee will also advise the Cabinet Secretary on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the demand for education by poor households and suggest mitigation measures.
It will recommend Health and Safety measures to be put in place for the pupils/students, teachers and the entire school community and identify institutions that may have been adversely affected by COVID-19 and advise on mitigation and recovery measures.
It will also submit regular reports to the Cabinet Secretary on the implementation progress of COVID-19 related programmes as well as undertaking any other related duty that may be assigned to them by him.
The Committee’s Secretariat will be located at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).
The Ministry of Education has also come up with measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in the education sector.
This includes mounting of online learning and the drafting of a master-plan to guide the response to COVID-19 in the sector.
Upon the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the closure of all schools and other learning institutions on March 15th, 2020.
This was part of the measures put in place to control the spread of the virus.
Although schools were expected to resume learning when the Second Term was scheduled to start on May 4th, 2020, the Government extended the reopening date for one month.
This would give more room for the scale up of the national efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19.
With reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday that the virus may never be defaced from the world, only time will tell how swift and careful normalcy returns.
-Mr Kemboi is a journalist.