Economy

Concerns as counties lag in desks for schools plan

SCHOOLDESK

School desks on Outering Road in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • As part of the preparations for the reopening, the government allocated Sh1.9 billion under the Economic Stimulus Programme for the supply of locally assembled desks to public primary and secondary schools.
  • The plan is to ensure each pupil got a spacious personal desk and at the same time cushion jua kali workshops and carpenters from the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The desks with large surface for writing and holding books are expected to eliminate the old seating arrangements in primary schools where four or five pupils would be squeezed into a single bench.

A majority of counties are yet to distribute enough desks in public schools to allow for safe learning three weeks after pupils resumed physical classes.

Data from the Ministry of Education shows only 25 percent or 12 of the 47 counties have hit the 80 percent mark in the distribution of 625,000 additional desks needed to curb the spread of Covid-19 among learners.

This means that thousands of learners in public primary and secondary schools are yet to receive spacious personal desks to achieve the one-metre distance prescribed by the Ministry of Health.

“I urge counties to step up the distribution as we seek to complete the exercise and focus on effective learning and preparation for examination,” Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said yesterday.

As part of the preparations for the reopening, the government allocated Sh1.9 billion under the Economic Stimulus Programme for the supply of locally assembled desks to public primary and secondary schools.

The plan is to ensure each pupil got a spacious personal desk and at the same time cushion jua kali workshops and carpenters from the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The desks with large surface for writing and holding books are expected to eliminate the old seating arrangements in primary schools where four or five pupils would be squeezed into a single bench.

According to the Ministry of Education, Nairobi County has achieved 100 percent distribution, with 14,490 desks supplied to primary schools and 5,150 to secondary schools.

Nairobi is followed closely by Uasin Gishu (94.7percent), Siaya (91.5 percent) and Vihiga (90.8 percent).

Others on the list of counties that have surpassed the 80 percent distribution mark are Kisumu, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kiambu, Migori, Machakos, Muranga and Busia.

Thousands of children resumed in-person learning on January 4, the first time since March, amid challenges of social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19 in schools.

A spot check in schools across Nairobi on the first day of reopening showed that except for temperature checks and handwashing routines, things largely remained as they were before the pandemic, with pupils sharing desks and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder.

Though many had protective masks, some of them wore them incorrectly—opting to wrap them around their chins instead of covering their mouths and noses.

As at Wednesday Kenya had recorded 99,444 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 and 1,736 fatalities, amid calls for schools to keep learners safe.

The enrolment in public schools has swelled after a number of private institutions permanently shut due to the prolonged closure.

Prof Magoha yesterday acknowledged the challenge of crowding but said the government would ensure learners and teachers have sufficient protective masks and hand sanitisers.

“Despite the challenge of physical/social distancing in some schools, they are implementing different mitigation strategies including use of dining halls, auditoriums and open spaces (learning under trees) among others,” he said.

He said the government had disbursed over Sh19 billion in capitation to all public primary and secondary schools, and urged prudent use of the funds to safeguard and boost learning.