Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha tells school heads not to send away children who report without fees.
Education officials are racing against time to prepare schools for reopening, amid concerns by parents and teachers on how Covid-19 health guidelines will be enforced.
The learning institutions are to ensure a safe environment in line with protocols issued by the Ministries of Health and Education to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The government had promised to fund schools and prepare them for reopening after the eight-month closure that saw learners remain home for the longest holiday in the history of the country’s education system.
The Ministry of Education has issued guidelines that schools must follow, including social distancing, installing hand washing points and ensuring children and teachers have masks all the time.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha recently insisted that schools would reopen on January 4.
He told parents to prepare their children for learning, adding that they should stop giving the excuse of not being able to afford masks.
“I’ve heard a lot of noise. Be serious and prepare your child for schools will reopen on January 4,” Prof Magoha said.
He added that the government would only provide masks to children from very vulnerable backgrounds.
Prof Magoha also asked families whose teenage girls became pregnant during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure they report back to school.
“Pregnancy is not a disease. The government will do everything to ensure every child is in school,” the minister said.
He told heads not to send children who have no fees back home.
The CS has in the past two months been going to schools across the country, accessing their preparedness ahead of reopening.
The ministry has also issued guidelines to ensure children who dropped out before the pandemic are readmitted to school.
In a circular to regional and county education directors, Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said the government is committed to ensuring every learner is in school.
“The Ministry of Education National Guidelines for Re-entry in Early Learning and Basic Education (2019) clearly spell out the process,” Dr Kipsang said.
Learners in Grade Four, Standard Eight and Form Four will also resume school on January 4.
They went on holiday on December 23.
Just a week ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered chiefs and their assistants to ensure every child reports to school.
The President said the government remains on course for the resumption of learning, with the safety of children being prioritised.
“In line with the government policy of universal and compulsory basic education, parents and guardians are required to facilitate their children to resume schooling in January,” Mr Kenyatta said.
As schools prepare to reopen, newspost team has established that the institutions do not have enough classrooms to support social distancing.
No extra classrooms have been built at Kithatha, Iimba, Kathikwani, Vulueni and Muani primary schools in Makueni County.
The situation is the same in all the other counties, including Nairobi.
A principal at day secondary school in Samburu County said learning institutions are struggling financially and finding it hard to meet the basic and other requirements.
Some secondary schools have written to parents asking for support in building more classrooms.
Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Nairobi branch executive secretary Moses Mbora asked the government to focus on more infrastructure for schools and employing teachers.
He said 83 schools have been shut for lack of suitable infrastructure in Nairobi alone.
The county has a shortage of 450 secondary school teachers, he added.
“If infrastructure and teachers were lacking during ordinary times, the situation will be worse next year,” Mr Mbora said.
Elimu Yetu Coalition coordinator Joseph Wasikhongo said the government has done nothing to show that schools are ready for reopening.
He said State officials have shown that social distancing in schools is a pipe dream and called on the Ministry of Education to provide schools with sanitiser and facemasks.
“The school environment has not been tested enough to show that children will be safe when learning resumes early next month. The government should have done a better job,” Mr Wasikhongo said.
He added that if the guidelines drafted by the two ministries are to be fully observed and implemented, only five per cent of schools would be allowed to reopen.
The coalition cited poor infrastructure and sanitation areas, lack of masks for children and poor funding by the government as the greatest challenges schools face.
Mr Wasikhongo said the only funding used to prepare schools for reopening the Sh1.9 billion under the Economic Stimulus Package.
The money was used to make and distribute desks and lockers to 5,254 secondary and 5,136 primary schools.
He added that the powers of the Education Committee on Covid-19 Response should be expanded beyond advising the ministry on reopening of schools.
“It should have been funded to help the government prepare and make schools safe for children,” he said.