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Teachers To Instruct Under Trees and Tents

Should the government fail to address the infrastructural challenges schools are facing by January, then teachers should prepare to instruct learners under trees, in tents and in dining halls; for schools that are blessed with one. This has been revealed by head teachers, who have confirmed that their biggest headache in this new norm is inadequate infrastructure.

Learners currently in school; Grade Four, Standard Eight and Form Four, were redistributed to the other classrooms upon their reopening on 12th October, to conform with 1.5 metre social distance protocols as recommended by the health experts.  They have occupied almost half of the available space in most schools.

The new guidelines require classrooms which could accommodate between 40-60 learners in the old norm, to accommodate only a maximum of 25 learners in the new normal.

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In most  primary schools for instance , learners in Grade Four are currently occupying classrooms meant for grade  One to grade Four learners, while those in Standard Eight are currently occupying rooms meant for  Standard Five to standard Eight learners. Should the learners at home report in January, they will lack space.

In secondary schools, Form four learners are occupying classrooms meant for forms one, two and three. Some dormitories are also acting as additional classrooms in boarding schools to help adhere to the covid -19 protocols.

According to the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association, KESSHA, Chairman Kahi Indimuli, institutions may have to be creative by providing tents or using dining halls, where learners can sit for lessons.

“For classrooms, schools may be creative enough and provide tents where students can take their lessons, but it will be difficult to shift learners to spend their nights in tents, they will have to use the available dormitories.”

“Social distancing remains the greatest challenge for all schools and we will have to ensure that learners observe more of the hand washing and wearing of quality face masks while in school,” he said.

One hundred per cent Form One transition in the past two years has left most secondary schools grappling with congestion of learners, despite having established new streams.

According to the Kenya Primary School Head teachers Association (KEPSHA) Chairman Nicholas Gathemia, infrastructure, especially availability of enough classrooms, is the greatest challenge for primary schools.

“Unless the government does something between now and January, institutions will have to be creative and come up with spaces within the school compounds where pupils will take their lessons,” said Mr Gathemia.

Gathemia urged the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to recruit more teachers as the social distancing rule will increase their workload.

“It will not be possible for a teacher to teach several streams of learners as each class will have to be divided into small groups, which means we need more teachers to salvage the situation,” he said.

Ms Macharia had earlier on hatched a plan by the commission to recruit 12,626 teachers annually to bridge the gap created by the transition policy.

The Kenya Special Needs Head Teachers Association Chairman Peter Sitienei revealed that the infrastructure in special needs schools is pathetic and not enough to ensure social distancing. He also revealed that the schools were largely left out in the distribution of the Sh1.9 million economic stimulus desk project and that a majority of them do not have enough desks to support social distancing when schools reopen in January.

“From our records, only four special needs schools were supplied with the desks,” said Mr Sitienei.

The Kenya Private Schools Association Chief Executive Officer  Peter Ndoro said most private schools do not have funds to expand or build more classrooms.

“Without funding, private schools do not have the capacity to observe social distancing as the available classrooms will not be enough to accommodate learners,” he said.

The Ministry of Education has since acknowledged that social distancing will be a nightmare for many schools.

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently said the government plans to build 12,500 classrooms in both day and boarding primary and secondary schools but no construction has began.

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