On March 15, 2020 President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the closure of all schools and colleges nationwide in response to COVID-19
This is the first time in Kenyan history that academic calendar has been disrupted completely with nearly 17 million learners countrywide expressing fears of losses as they join a list of major casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the devastating consequences, the country’s social and economic costs has taken a great negative effects on the children who are currently experiencing learning loss during this extended school holidays.
The quarantines and curfews imposed by the government as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic also lead to learning loss. However, the Education CS Prof George Magoha maintained that learners should undertake virtual learning programmes, technology-mediated learning on TV, radio, and mobile phones.
- “Education ministry will intensify virtual learning programmes (online, distance and e-learning) and explore other innovative approaches to promote equity,” said Prof Magoha.
While such learning may take place in urban areas, it is a deep challenge for many children in remote areas due to network connectivity challenges. There is high risk of learning loss for children of parents with low literacy levels and limited education resources.
Additionally, smart phones are beyond the reach of most rural communities, and where electricity and technology do exist, the cost of the internet is prohibitive. Such disadvantages present challenges for most learners who must compete with their more privileged peers in urban areas during national examinations.
Another challenge is when adults have smart phones, tensions around privacy and kids’ unsupervised internet use render access for learning nonexistent.
Generally, Intermittent online learning is not effective for students already behind, and radio learning cannot replace classroom learning as it is intended to supplement knowledge that children already have.
CS Magoha cancelled this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations that were to begin in October as he declared 2020 a lost academic year.
This means that estimated 15 million Primary and secondary school learners will have to repeat classes when schools reopen in January 2021.
School closures also have implications for learners who rely on school feeding programs as a main source of nutrition. With everyone now at home, families’ ability to provide food for their children has been even further reduced. In such poverty, securing food takes precedence over learning.
The prolonged closure has also taken girls’ schools back to the drawing board due to the rising cases of teenage pregnancies.
This is evidently suggests that girls are further exposes girls to sexual exploitation and gender-based violence.
This places girls at especially high risk of health and reproductive crisis, including early marriages which put girls at high risk of dropping out when schools reopen.
While COVID-19 has affected nearly all learners globally, We must put in place protections for vulnerable girls and ensure that they have access to life-saving education.
There is evidence that links poverty, lack of family support, and transactional sex.
School closure has affected the provision of school meals and sanitary towels, which children from disadvantaged families rely on significantly. This raises the risks of young girls engaging in transactional sex in order to gain not only access to these essential needs but also to support their families.
Some of these pregnancies could also be as a result of sexual violence, which has been projected to rise during COVID-19 lock downs.
Government in collaboration with relevant stakeholders should provide sessions for parents on how to address these topics with their children and to respond objectively.