Kenya: Barchok raises reservations over the planned full re-opening of schools

Africa/Kenya/21-12-2020/Author: Nicholas Kigondu / Stanley Mbugua/Source:

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok has raised concern over the state of schools ahead of the planned full re-opening set for January 4th 2021.

Speaking at Ol’Ng’oswet dispensary in Bomet East during a ward visit, Barchok said the ministry of education has not done enough to ensure that schools are ready to re-open.

He said the government should prioritize supporting schools to expand existing infrastructure especially now that the country is faced with the Covid19 pandemic.

According to Barchok, the money meant to expand classrooms are yet to reach respective schools and those contracted to make more desks have not received their payments.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced that all schools in the country will reopen on January 4 after nearly a year of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was arrived at following a stakeholders meeting with the government having gradually reopened schools beginning October with learners in Grade 4, class 8 and form 4 having already kicked off their second terms.

The reopening of schools will mark the beginning of the second term of the school calendar which will end on March 19. All learners, with the exception of Class 8 and Form 4, will then have a seven-week holiday to allow primary and secondary school candidates to sit for their exams.

According to the calendar released by the education ministry, Students in Grade 4 and incoming Form One students will remain at home as other learners complete the third term of the school calendar.

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Time to re-open schools in Eastern and Southern Africa, UNICEF

Africa/27-09-2020/Author: Beth Nyaga/Source:

UNICEF has called on governments, parents and teachers across Eastern and Southern Africa to urgently and safely re-open schools, as the costs of continued school closures escalate across Eastern and Southern Africa.

While there are encouraging reports that 13 out of 21 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa have returned children to classrooms, with an additional four having set return dates, countries such as Kenya – with a huge student population – are still to decide on whether they will reopen schools this year, compounding the threats which out-of-school children face.

UNICEF’s call to safely re-open schools follows scientific evidence which shows children are not super-spreaders of COVID-19, and are the least affected by COVID-19 in the region, with a mere 2.5 per cent of COVID-19 cases attributed to children of school-going age (5-18 years, WHO).

“Much effort was spent at the start of this pandemic reminding all of the dangers of COVID-19 and necessary precautions,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, Regional Director for UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa. “Things have evolved – we now know greater dangers for children lie by being outside the classroom. That message needs to be heard.”

Across this region, of the nearly 65 million children remaining out of school, around one in two are not reached by any form of learning.

Meanwhile, violence has spiked. Across the region, millions of children continue to miss what was their one nutritious meal of the day.

“Seven months into the pandemic, we must be very clear about the gravity of this crisis: we are at risk of losing a generation,” said Fall. “We see lost learning, rising violence, rising child labour, forced child marriages, teen pregnancies and diminished nutrition. A generation of children is at risk, and at the most critical time in our continent’s history.

“We are at a time of unprecedented population growth,” continued Fall. “If this expanded workforce can receive quality learning at school, the potential for increased production could sustain an economic boom to drastically reduce poverty in Africa – where currently 70 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s people live on less than US$ 2/day.”

It can be done. Safely re-opening schools by the beginning of October this year will give scholars a full term and vastly reduce learning losses.

A third term for learners presents the last chance to recoup learning losses for 2020 and avert the dangers of permanent school drop-outs.

Re-opening will also reduce losses incurred by both parents and governments.

Critically, there is growing regional and global practice showing that safe school re-opening can be done with political will and community commitment.

Most countries in Eastern and Southern Africa have seen the rationale of a phased return to schools, starting with exam classes in countries such as Botswana, Eritrea, Eswatini, Madagascar, Somalia, Zambia, and recently Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Bigger countries with larger COVID-19 caseloads and higher student populations – such as South Africa – have reopened schools for all grades since the end of August.

“UNICEF is here to support countries, and share working practices on safely re-opening schools; examples that can be applied to our context,” said Fall.

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World: WHO, UNICEF urge safe school reopening in Africa

World/Africa/23-08-2020/Author and Source:

The unprecedented and prolonged school closures aimed at keeping students safe from COVID-19 are harming them in other ways, World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF said Thursday, urging governments in Africa to promote the safe reopening of schools while taking measures to limit the spread of the virus.

A WHO survey of 39 countries in sub-Saharan Africa found that schools are fully open in only six countries. They are closed in 14 countries and partially open (exam classes) in 19 others. Around a dozen countries are planning to resume classroom learning in September, which is the start of the academic year in some countries.

However, the impact of extended education disruption is significant. It includes among others: poor nutrition, stress, increased exposure to violence and exploitation, childhood pregnancies, and overall challenges in mental development of children due to reduced interaction related to school closures.

In Eastern and Southern Africa, UNICEF finds that violence rates against children are up, while nutrition rates are down with more than 10 million children missing school meals. For girls, especially those who are displaced or living in low-income households, the risks are even higher. For example, following school closures triggered by the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, pregnancy rates among teenagers in Sierra Leone doubled and many girls were unable to continue their education when schools reopened.

The long-term social and economic impact of extended school shutdown is also concerning. According to a World Bank modelling, school closures in sub-Saharan Africa could result in lifetime earning losses of US$ 4500 per child.

This may also be worsened by reduced earning of the parents who are forced to stay at home to take care of the children especially in households that cannot afford child care services.

“Schools have paved the way to success for many Africans. They also provide a safe haven for many children in challenging circumstances to develop and thrive,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We must not be blind-sided by our efforts to contain COVID-19 and end up with a lost generation. Just as countries are opening businesses safely, we can reopen schools. This decision must be guided by a thorough risk analysis to ensure the safety of children, teachers and parents and with key measures like physical distancing put in place.”

WHO, UNICEF and the International Federation of Red Cross have issued guidance on COVID-19 prevention and control in schools. The guidance includes recommendations for physical distancing measures such as staggering the beginning and end of the school day, cancelling school events that create crowding, spacing desks when possible, providing handwashing facilities, wearing masks, discouraging unnecessary touching and ensuring that sick students and teachers stay at home.

“The long-term impact of extending the school shutdown risks ever greater harm to children, their future and their communities,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern & Southern Africa, Mohamed M. Malick Fall. “When we balance the harm being done to children locked out of schools, and if we follow the evidence, it leads children back into the classroom.”

WHO and UNICEF also recommend a range of hygiene and disinfection measures for schools to reopen and operate safely, including regular handwashing, daily disinfection and cleaning of surfaces, basic water, sanitation and waste management facilities, and environmental cleaning and decontamination.

However, millions of children attend schools that lack water, sanitation and hygiene services. In sub-Saharan Africa, only a quarter of schools have basic hygiene services, 44% of them have basic drinking water and 47% cent have basic sanitation services, according to a WHO and UNICEF report assessing progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in schools between 2000 and 2019.

As such, this is the moment to take an opportunity from a crisis, and for investment and innovative thinking. As we seek to get children back into school, WHO and UNICEF stress that there are quick solutions to handwashing in schools, such as a tap, bucket and soap.

Source WHO 

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