South Africa

Kenya: Tight Schedule, Covid-19 Rules as Schools Reopen for Third Term

Schools will reopen tomorrow for the Third Term after a seven-week break to a unique crash academic programme amid tight health measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Third Term is usually the shortest in the school calendar and will this time last only two months as teachers race to complete the 2020 syllabus.

Also, for the first time in the history of the country, schools will open for the Third Term without the pressure of preparing candidates for national examinations.

Traditionally, Standard Eight and Form Four candidates sit their national examinations in the Third Term.

However, this time round the focus will shift to Standard Seven and Form Three students, who are expected to finish their syllabus on time before they start preparing to sit their national exams in less than a year.

The national examinations for the 2021 class are scheduled for next March.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said registrations for the exams will start as early as this term, unlike previous years. Usually, registrations for national examinations start in January, during the usual first term of the school calendar.

Recover the 'lost year'

However, due to the revised calendar occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, schools will have to adjust to the new ministry regulations to recover the "lost year".

"As you are aware, we are already behind schedule and therefore the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) will begin the registration of the 2021 candidates ahead of the March examinations," said Prof Magoha.

Tomorrow, only learners in Pre- Primary One and Two, Grades One to Three, Standard Five to Seven and Forms One to Three will be reporting to school. The Third Term will run from May 10, 2021 to July 16, 2021.

Notably, 1,392,385 Grade Four learners -- 347,636 in 14,086 private schools and 1,044,749 in 23,157 public schools -- will not be reporting to schools.

Despite efforts by several private school owners to initiate various extra-curriculum programmes to accommodate the learners in schools during the two months they are required to be home, Prof Magoha ruled out the possibility of having the pupils from private schools engaged in any form of learning.

He said before the school calendar was revised, the ministry engaged all stakeholders, including those from private schools.

Grade Four learners

"Grade Four learners will remain at home until July 26 as we agreed with stakeholders and anyone thinking they will call them back to school should go and create their own country, their own government and their own education system," said Prof Magoha.

The Grade Four learners completed their Third Term in March and are awaiting to join Grade Five in July 26.

Already, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development has finalised the content for Grade Five ahead of the rollout.

Prof Magoha warned parents against falling prey to private schools, some of which have begun sending them fees guidelines.

Last week, several private schools sent messages to parents informing them about plans to roll out Grade Five while others cited non-completion of the Grade Four syllabus as the reason for recalling Grade Four learners. Others said they would engage learners to ensure they do not forget what they had studied before the school closed.

On schools preparation regarding Covid-19, Prof Magoha asked schools to observe the health protocols issued last year.

"The ministry has already released a circular to all field officers to ensure that all schools are ready to accept learners, and that they are all prepared to comply with Ministry of Health Covid-19 measures," he said.

Covid-19 vaccine

In the regulations, schools are required to ensure they install handwashing facilities that have enough running water and make sure that the thermo guns bought in the last term are working.

Prof Magoha also urged teachers to take the Covid-19 vaccine to ensure they are safe when interacting with learners.

"When more vaccines are available, the government will ensure that all teachers who voluntarily accept to be vaccinated get the vaccine, possibly by the end of next month," he said.

So far, 143,525 teachers have been vaccinated. The teachers have been advised to access the vaccine in 622 centres across the country.

But, even as schools prepared to reopen yesterday, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers secretary-general Akelo Misori asked the government to address the issue of teacher shortage in schools.

"The policy on 100 per cent transition to secondary schools and the new class establishment had revealed a teacher shortage of 97,000 before the pandemic," said Mr Misori. "This deficit will be made worse by the retirement of more than 25,000 by June 30."

Mr Misori urged the Teachers Service Commission to absorb intern teachers on permanent terms, recruit at least 50,000 new tutors in the next financial year, and a similar number over the next three years to meet the demands of the Competency-Based Curriculum.

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