Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) institutions and universities stand a higher chance of reopening in shifts as opposed to primary and secondary schools.
This is according to Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, who cited infrastructural challenges and congestion as a major hurdle in the reopening of primary and secondary schools.
Speaking in Kisumu on Friday, the CS said TVET colleges and universities have the capacity to achieve social distancing in efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 among learners.
“The TVET institutions, as we have looked at them, have a much better chance in terms of getting social distancing. Like universities, they offer various courses and can adjust their programmes and open in shifts much more easily than the primary and secondary schools,” Prof Magoha said when he met TVET principals from the Western region.
He added that mask production was no longer a headache as there was assurance from TVET Principal Secretary Julius Juan that the institutions can make their own.
“The unfortunate thing is Covid-19 is still increasing… But government is going to work as if we are going to open on September 1,” Prof Magoha said.
The CS said reopening learning institutions will largely be dictated by the prevailing Covid-19 status, and that it would be impossible to continue with the plan if cases will still be high. He added that they will strongly rely on the advice of the Health ministry on reopening of the institutions.
“As a physician, I will tell you according to my training, we should open after we have reached the peak and stabilised and started coming down for 14 days continuously,” he said. There is no country in the world that has dared to reopen when the Covid-19 infections were still rising.”
There have been concerns from parents and other sector players on plans to reopen learning institutions in September, citing lack of preparedness.
On Wednesday, Prof Magoha said the Health ministry had advised that each classroom have a maximum of 20 learners and suggested erecting tents to accommodate the learners in view of infrastructural challenges in most schools.
But school heads who spoke to the media said this was not practical.
The Education CS said tertiary learning institutions will only be reopened after being certified by government-approved physicians.
“The challenge would be in boarding facilities in terms of bed capacity,” he said.
Dr Juan said TVET institutions would play a crucial role in the fight against Covid-19 if reopened, even as many continue to produce critical items in the fight.
“Eldoret Polytechnic donated about 240 medical beds to Uasin Gishu County and Kisumu Polytechnic is producing solar-powered handwashing machines,” he stated.
In pre-primary, primary and secondary schools, the CS said yesterday that the government has been exploring various ideas, including increasing learning facilities, which he termed unreasonable.
“In pre-primary, primary and secondary, social distance is a major challenge in capital letters, but it should not stop us from preparing for reopening in September,” the CS said. “It will be most unreasonable to expect government to double or triple the facilities in learning institutions, because it has taken years to build what is there.”
The government has also considered readmitting learners in shifts, which the CS said was only found feasible for Grade One to Four.
The consideration of overhauling the school calendar has also come up, but according to the CS, it was also not practical because of the East African Community protocols.
“We are senior members of the EAC and it would mean the President will have to consult with the others and if they say no then it is not something that we should even waste our time on,” he stated.
On examinations, the CS said TVETs could allow the examination classes that were disrupted to resume after inspection to ensure compliance with Covid-19 requirements.
Prof Magoha dismissed calls by the Kenya National Union Teachers to scrap the delocalisation policy so that teachers return to their home counties, terming it petty politics.
“When you listen to some of these arguments, they don’t deserve my attention,” he stated.