On Monday the 21st of September, the Teachers Service Commission, (TSC) instructed teachers to go back to their respective schools by Monday the 28th in readiness to reopen schools. These instructions were informed by the statements made by the CS of Education, Professor George Magoha, on the possibility of reopening sooner than expected.
According to the CS, it was clear that the curve was flattening, and the number of new cases was less significant than it was a few weeks ago. While the CS’s decision to reopen schools could be a welcome relief to many parents, there is something amiss about his sentiments.
Requirements for the Reopening of Schools
Professor Magoha stated that WE are ready to reopen schools. WE are required to meet the ministry’s guidelines on how to uphold the safety measures to ensure learners and staff members are not at risk of getting infected with COVID-19.
Every institution offering education services is required to meet all the recommendations given by the stakeholders who were tasked with looking for a way to reopen schools. Some of the points include;
- Mapping health facilities within 10 KM of the institution. Medical personnel will be assigned to the school for monitoring.
- A one metre distance between deckers to ensure there is social distancing in the dorm room.
- Adequate well-maintained washrooms that should be disinfected several times a day.
- One metre distance in labs and classrooms.
- Disinfecting all furniture daily.
- Staff members that handle food will be required to wear protective equipment such as aprons, gloves, and masks.
- The staff should undergo daily symptomatic screening.
- The field should be marked for learners to play non-contact sports.
- Suspension of school activities, including assemblies.
- Water should be readily accessible for drinking and cleaning.
- Everyone in the school is subject to temperature checks and the results recorded.
- Authorized visitors should get their temperature checked, and they should provide their details.
- Any case of suspected COVID-19 is to be reported through the agreed-upon channels, and the institution should be shut down.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
The CS was firm that WE were ready to reopen schools. This statement is a welcome relief to many and a cause of alarm for many. WE are the parents who are struggling to feed the entire family every day. WE are the parents who are tired of dealing with their stubborn child who won’t listen. Each of the two is grateful, but their burdens vary.
Both of them are glad that they get to breathe, even just for a minute. Both know that they have to deal with other things, but this one thing won’t be the problem. While it is easy to say parents are glad that schools are reopening, it is reckless to equalize their level of relief.
Unequal Distribution of Resources
Some WE are okay with their kids going back to school because they know they can meet the requirements. There’s enough room for social distancing; there is enough room in the dorm area. WE are okay.
Maybe there’s a group of WE that are glad because they know that they had the room, but they didn’t have the resources. Now that the government is planning to provide desks and lockers to schools, WE are okay. Well, better than WE were.
But there’s a WE that isn’t bothered by whether WE are ready to reopen schools, because their academics were not affected by the closure of schools. The WE that have access to all the resources you can imagine, whether it’s a tutor or online tools to facilitate remote learning.
And then there’s a WE that is glad on one part and scared to death on the other. Yes, school means that their children will get meals, and there’s also the fact that they can get back to learning. At least when they are in school, they are safe from some dangers. While in school, there is hope for a better tomorrow without fear of unduly interruption. At school, they are protected from that predator, or those police officers who see any young man as a criminal.
This WE chooses to be ready to reopen schools because their children will be safe and fed. But WE are aware that the requirements are absurd considering the conditions WE are already in. The schools don’t have classes, so desks don’t mean a thing. WE have been in the news for sitting on rocks in flooded shacks. Maybe WE would be grateful for the desks if we still had those shacks, but WE have also been in the news for learning under trees.
WE could appreciate the desks better if social distancing with them didn’t mean abandoning the little shade WE have.
WE are the learners who have not studied since the day schools were closed by the president. WE have been busy trying to survive the pandemic. Some WE have been helping raise their siblings, others became pregnant and became victims of the society’s refusal to embrace sex education and provide the necessary resources. Some WE decided not to study, while others were dealing with other things in their lives.
But then there are special ones, these WE had all the resources, they studied as much as they could, they had the resources, and the will.
All these WE’s are recommended to sit their national exams in April 2021. WE will go through the syllabus within that short period, and WE will sit for the same exams. Teachers are bound to do their best to equalize the playing field, but WE do not have enough teachers.
More BOM teachers than TSC ones teach us, but WE understand that BOM teachers have not been paid through the pandemic period. WE are worried that we will have to teach ourselves because the teachers might not come back. Catching up will be a problem, but what choice do WE have with the national exams in April.
WE are BOM teachers who have been living through faith and the grace of whatever forces work on this good earth. WE were dismissed by our institutions when we asked for payment. They claimed that they did not have the funds; some were being honest; others did not care.
WE are the ones who have to decide whether to go back to a school that didn’t care whether we lived or died. WE are stuck between two choices, going back to school, waiting for the government boost that has lost its way to us, or stay home and continue living how we did during the pandemic.
WE know that the money might take a while to get to us; WE might never receive it. WE prefer to be broke in a place that offers respect, rather than one which disregards our humanity. The decision becomes a bigger problem when the schools WE are reporting to are the ones with trees for classes, and stones for seats.
WE have received a list from the schools about what WE need to bring for the reopening; it’s impossible to have that much right now. But WE are getting desks, right?
WE sure hope that WE are ready to reopen schools. WE hope that the measures that have considered how diverse WE are; that they have acknowledged that there is no balance, and WE need different things. WE hope that the duty of meeting the requirements are not in our hands. But we have been Kenyan long enough; our hope is weak.