The phased reopening of schools that was recently implemented by the Ministry of Education is a classic example of the government’s commitment to balance between children’s right to education and their safety.
As schools reopen for all students in January 4, there is much to be done to curb the spread of COVID19 in schools. A key aspect in the process of managing COVID19 is the minimization of physical contacts. However, primary and secondary schools in Kenya hardly have enough space to practice social distancing. It will also be a mammoth task to make pre-school and lower primary school students adhere to the required protocols from the Ministries of Health and Education.
The Ministry of education has already released Guidelines to be followed in schools. The key protocols include:
- Social distancing
- Washing hands with soap and water
- Sanitizing when necessary
- General hygiene practices
- Wearing face masks at all times
These practices are expected to flatten the curve of Corona Virus infections, but implementing them is a different story. Teachers should expect to deal with diverse situations. Some students will naively ignore the protocols, while others will simply forget the rules. Dealing with young people is a difficult task already, doing so in a pandemic is even more problematic. Yet teachers are expected not to relent in enforcing the guidelines.
According to Mumina Bonaya, the right messages need to be communicated to convince learners to adhere to the required best practices at this time of the pandemic. Teachers are conventionally mandated to teach curriculum content and model good behavior. Nonetheless, the situation now requires teachers to teach students about COVID19 protocols as a scientific approach to managing the pandemic. In this regard, learners will be more appreciative of the guidelines if they are adequately informed of their rationale.
Thus, it will not be business as usual when schools reopen in January. Teachers will require more time and resources to teach students about the importance of hand washing, wearing face masks, and social distancing.
Forcing learners to follow these guidelines won’t be helpful unless the students themselves know the reason for doing so. As long as the students become religious and affirmative about the issue, the teacher’s burden will be hugely abridged.