Editorials

Prioritise school desks to avert Covid-19 surge

SCHOOLDESK

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

BDgeneric_logo

Summary

  • Reports that a majority of counties have yet to provide public primary and secondary schools with enough desks to enable proper social distancing among learners raises serious concerns about safety in the institutions.
  • The decision to fully reopen of schools early this month was greeted with cynicism among many Kenyans who saw them as potential super spreaders of the coronavirus.

Reports that a majority of counties have yet to provide public primary and secondary schools with enough desks to enable proper social distancing among learners raises serious concerns about safety in the institutions.

The decision to fully reopen of schools early this month was greeted with cynicism among many Kenyans who saw them as potential super spreaders of the coronavirus.

Thursday, scientists at the Kenya Medical Research Insitute (Kemri) released a report projecting the country’s Covid-19 infections to peak in March — a situation attributed to the reopening of schools.

The predicted rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths is based on the scientists’ mathematical modelling and is meant to guide policy response to the pandemic.

But the lack of preparedness for a possible surge — underlineed by the authorities’ failure to implement basic public health protocols such as social distancing in schools — is worrying.

According to Ministry of Education data, 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.

Only 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 (94.7 percent), Siaya (91.5 percent) and Vihiga (90.8 percent). Other counties that have surpassed the 80 percent distribution mark are Kisumu, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kiambu, Migori, Machakos, Muranga and Busia.

This means that thousands of learners in public schools are yet to receive spacious personal desks to achieve the one-metre distance prescribed by the Ministry of Health. The devolved units should make distributing desks to schools a priority by suspending allocations to non-essential projects.

The fact that some counties have succeeded in providing desks to schools means that in other counties officials are sleeping on the job.

It also raises accountability questions, with the government allocated Sh1.9 billion under the economic stimulus programme for the supply of locally assembled desks to public schools.