COVID-19: The Bad State of Affairs on Kenya’s Education System

The coronavirus pandemic has had tremendous effects on the world at large – and one of the most felt effects has been on the education system. Children and school-going adults worldwide have had to put their studies to a halt for months on end.

Back to school after 9 months

Here in Kenya, school-going children had to stay home for a period of 9 months with little to no access to online learning facilities. At the time, the Kenyan government claimed that they are setting up proper COVID-19 protocols to ensure that students have a safe learning environment. But unfortunately, once schools reopened, the situation in schools had not changed apart from the installation of washing zones and temperature checks upon entrance into the school compound. According to Daily Nation, thousands of students didn’t report back to school, a bigger percentage comprising of girls.

The public school system in Kenya has always had a problem with over-population. With the known facts about the coronavirus, it is not an ideal situation for any parent/teacher, let alone a child. Most Kenyans expected that the government would construct more classes in all public schools to cater to the large number of pupils. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. 

In Githurai 45, there is a school with a population of 1000+ with only 23 classes. Before the pandemic, a class could hold at least 83 pupils. And now, they are expected to hold a maximum of 35 pupils in a class, not knowing how to handle the rest of the pupils. Education Minister George Magoha suggested that schools should consider learning under a tree to avoid overcrowding. This suggestion was met with a lot of uproar especially from Kenyans on Twitter. Some said that the minister was expressing a cavalier attitude towards public schools, which, compared to private ones, often have fewer resources to cater to their huge pupil population.

A typical classroom ./Photo: Nile post

After 9 months of not stepping a foot in a school, arguably the students were excited to go back to school. Apart from pupils in their final year who returned to school late in 2020, those in other grades will have to repeat the academic year. This is a frowned upon decision as most of the lower class pupils have to relearn a lot of their syllabus. A teacher in one of the public schools said, “Most of the lower class pupils don’t remember how to write and read. They are however very good in dancing and singing.”

School Unrests

The back-to-school period has been followed by a lot of unrest. Quite a number of students have been seen striking over various known and unknown reasons. For example, students from Father Simon Secondary School in Nambale Sub County, Busia County, went on strike on Wednesday, January 6, just two days after schools officially reopened across the country. Reports indicated that the students staged the riot after some of them missed meals at the institution on Tuesday, January 5. Other students from a neighboring school staged a riot and destroyed property of unknown value only because the school decided to scrap off entertainment from their weekend. Education CS George Magoha advised school heads to expel students who were involved in unruly behavior and strikes and also for them not to be readmitted to other schools.

Non-compliance with COVID-19 Regulations

Learning in schools has been quite challenging for many public schools due to the covid-19 regulations put in place by the ministry of health. While some schools lack enough classes to enforce social distancing measures, some couldn’t afford other safer means of learning like the internet. Pupils can still be seen playing together as usual when they aren’t supposed to do that under the covid-19 rules. As much as schools are trying their best to enforce the health and safety measures, the Kenyan government needs to ensure that public schools have access to resources that will ensure proper learning of pupils and students while helping them to adhere to the covid-19 regulations. The government has up to now not released funds to schools to buy thermometers, sanitizers and other items required to implement the health protocols.

pupils learning under a tree

While some students are learning under trees, others are being forced to be in a class with two teachers teaching different subjects at the same time. Also, dividing the students into smaller groups calls for additional teachers, creating another challenge altogether. This just shows the bad state of affairs in the education sector during this period. We only hope and pray that the situation will change and that the government will provide enough resources to build more classes and hire more teachers. We need to protect our children from the virus as statistics point to a situation where the virus will still be here for quite some. Education is the backbone of every society and with the virus in play, it shouldn’t take a back seat.


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