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Reopening of schools and status of national exams: ANC leader speaks out

High school students. ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi has urged the government to provide a clear road map; post the Covid-19 pandemic.
High school students. ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi has urged the government to provide a clear road map; post the Covid-19 pandemic.

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha has been urged to provide concrete plans that his Ministry has come up with ahead of schools’ reopening in June, 2020. Amani National Congress, ANC, party leader Musalia Mudavadi has blamed the Ministry for not showing strong leadership during the current Covid-19 pandemic that has paralyzed the education sector.

Whereas the ANC leader says it was prudent to close schools in order to curb spread of the deadly disease, he has at the same time castigated the Ministry for failing to provide clear road map in the education sector.

“The fate of some 1.2 million KCPE candidates and 700,000 KCSE candidates hangs precariously in the balance. In all, about 15 million learners, who should be in school or college, are at home. While it is possible to appreciate the fears that led to the rushed closure of institutions of learning, it is difficult to come to terms with the reality that the Ministry of Education is this far still sending out speculative messages on the fate of learning; and especially on this year’s KCPE and KCSE examinations. What the country needs from the ministry are definitive messages on the way forward,” says the ANC leader.

Musalia’s outburst comes in the backdrop of Prof. Magoha’s failure in providing an address on the plans that his ministry has come up with pertaining the execution of this year’s national examinations and reopening of schools. Mudavadi says the Ministry has only made random and ad hoc pronouncements’ .

“These casual and abrupt statements have mostly been given in the sidelines of Ministry of Health briefings on Covid-19. The statements have only left the country confused and in limbo. Learners are in limbo, as are the teachers and parents,” he notes.

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Mudavadi blames the Ministry for not inviting key stakeholders in the education sector to a meeting so as to chat the way forward.

“We must avoid the habit of decrees and lone-ranger approaches of the kind that the Ministry of Education is used to. Jogoo House (the Education Ministry’s headquarter), the Teachers Service Commission, the Teachers’ unions and the the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) must constitute a team to plan what is to be done about education, going forward. They will also need to work with high level representation from the Ministry of Health and the treasury.

CS Magoha has already extended the April holiday for schools by one month. Schools were to initially open on May 4, 2020.

Musalia Mudavadi. ANC party leader.
Musalia Mudavadi. ANC party leader.
KCSE, KCPE examinations

With CS Magoha and President Uhuru Kenyatta insisting that this year’s national examinations will go on as scheduled, Mudavadi says this is a mirage as the syllabuses for class eight and form four learners has not been covered.

“We cannot change direction in the midstream, to pretend that all is well, when we know that exam syllabuses will not be covered. We can not have exams when syllabuses have not been covered. It will throw the integrity of the and the education system into international disrepute. We certainly don’t want to go that way,” he adds.

Concerning the ongoing E-learning, Mudavadi says not all learners are able to access Televisions, radios and other electronic gadgets.

It remains to be seen if the Education Ministry will heed the advice by the ANC leader and convene a stake holders’ meeting.

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Here is the full presser by Musalia Mudavadi, ANC PARTY LEADER;

GIVE KENYANS DEFINITIVE MESSAGES ON EDUCATION

1. That the new coronavirus (COVID-19) HAS DISRUPTED OUR LIVES AND ACTIVITIESeverywhere in the world requires no emphasis. The most obvious disruption, however, is in those sectors that are regulated by TIGHT ANNUAL TIMELINES. One of the most critical sectors is EDUCATION.

2. The outbreak of this virus in our country GAVE US NO CHANCE TO PLAN what to do with OUR EDUCATION and institutions of learning, DURING THE LIFE OF THE BUG IN OUR COUNTRY AND AFTER. In the arising emergency environment, the logical thing to do was to close schools and colleges, as we did, and to send the learners home.

3. The fate of some 1.2 MILLION KCPE CANDIDATES and 700,000 KCSE CANDIDATES hangs precariously in the balance. In all, about 15 million learners, who should be in school or college, are at home. While it is possible to appreciate the fears that led to the rushed closure of institutions of learning, it is difficult to come to terms with the reality that the Ministry of Education is this far STILL SENDING OUT SPECULATIVE MESSAGES on the fate of learning; and especially on this year’s KCPE and KCSE examinations. What the country needs from the ministry are DEFINITIVE MESSAGES on the way forward.

4. As the bug continues to remain with us, it is expected that the Ministry of Education could get bona fide leaders of the KEY STAKEHOLDER ENTITIES IN EDUCATION in a CONSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE, to reflect together and plan THE WAY FORWARD. So far, the Ministry of Education has only made RANDOM AND AD HOC PRONOUNCEMENTS. These CASUAL AND ABRUPT statements have mostly been given in the SIDELINES of Ministry of Health briefings on Covid-19. The statements have only left the COUNTRY CONFUSED AND IN LIMBO. Learners are in limbo, as are the teachers and parents.

5. Education is the mother of all the other sectors. It must demonstrate the HIGHEST LEVELS of PLANNING AND INFORMED ACTION, as a way of setting the bar for other sectors and as a sectoral necessity. To this end, we must AVOID THE HABIT OF DECREES and LONE-RANGER APPROACHES of the kind that the Ministry of Education is used to. JOGOO HOUSE, the TEACHERS SERVICE COMMISSION, the TEACHERS’ UNIONS and the KENYA NATIONAL EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL, must CONSTITUTE A TEAM to plan what is to be done about education, going forward. They will also need to work with high level representation from the MINISTRY OF HEALTH and the TREASURY.

6. The STATE OF THE ART in Education is EXTREMELY WORRYING at present. We have heard government officials say that LEARNING IS GOING ON, ONLINE. They have also said that national EXAMINATIONS WILL GO ON, as was scheduled at the start of the year. We don’t know of any PACKAGES OF MEASURES that the ministry has made for parents, teachers and learners TO FACILITATE, EQUALIZE AND MONITOR HOME LEARNING. Without CLEARLY DEFINED AND EQUITABLE STATE-OWNED AND STATE-FACILITATED LEARNING PACKAGES, it is misleading and even mischievous to claim that learning is going on. It is not.

7. Not every learner has ACCESS TO RADIO OR TV and less still to the INTERNET. Even those who can physically access these facilities are challenged with the COSTS of activating them. Let us not cheat ourselves. Let us ACCEPT THAT THINGS ARE BAD – indeed very bad – and that we may need to take some very DRASTIC DECISIONS ABOUT EDUCATION, but which decisions are good and necessary for the country, in the long term.

8. SYLLABUSES have not been covered and may not be covered. Our EXAM BASED EDUCATION is about syllabuses. We cannot change direction in the midstream, to pretend that all is well, when we know that EXAM SYLLABUSES will not be covered. WE CANNOT HAVE EXAMS when syllabuses have not been covered. It will throw the INTEGRITY OF THE EXAMS and the education system into international disrepute. We certainly don’t want to go that way.

9. Some schools, colleges and universities have been earmarked as ISOLATION CENTRES for Covid-19. Going forward, teachers, learners, parents and other stakeholders must be assisted to return to those places after they have reverted to their usual identity as NORMAL CENTRES OF LEARNING. There is need for a CLEAR STRATEGIC APPROACH TO COUNSELLING and REMOVAL OF STIGMA, ahead of reopening of these places as institutions of learning. Indeed, there is need to ensure that they are FUMIGATED AND confirmed to be SAFE AND COVID-19 FREE. We cannot just ARBITRARILY ASUME A RETURN TO NORMALCY in these places.

10. Institutions of learning also face serious FINANCIAL CHALLENGES in the days ahead, both in terms of running academic programmes and other CAPITATION and operational COSTS. This is coming in the wake of families being challenged with LOSS OF JOBS AND EARNINGS. Let us not just lumber our teachers with children before SECURING their FOOD and LEARNING NEEDS and GENERAL WELFARE in school.

11.There are many other challenges ahead of school reopening in this Covid-19 season. We must – above all the foregoing – PLAN HOW TO DEAL WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF OUTBREAKS OF COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS after the learners go back. How do we plan to manage any outbreaks? Shall we just send our children back to school without giving this any thought and MITIGATING against it?

12. Finally, there are outstanding OLD ISSUES IN EDUCATION, prior to Covid-19. Some pertain to the CHANGE OF CURRICULUM, while others are LABOUR ISSUES. The silver lining in the covid-19 tragedy is the opportunity it gives us to place our old differences and intransigence behind us, to accept to bring key stakeholder leaders together to reflect and plan together and to give education a fresh and healthy lease of life.

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