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Why CS Magoha can only watch and pray over the crisis in schools

Sir. Mohammed Ali 6

Aug. 07, 2020

The feelers sent by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha that schools may not reopen in January 2021 after all has unfurled the reality of an all-enveloping crisis in our education system.
Caught in the whirlwind are policy makers determined to postpone a problem, a cautious government keen to avoid blame, confused parents blackmailed by the pressures of the times to clutch onto every suggestion and helpless learners missing the opportunity of incorporating the new normal in their learning. In the last few days, the Government’s decisions to close schools indefinitely and to cancel the 2020 academic year have attracted mocking international headlines, with New York Times calling the cancellation of the year “Kenya’s unusual solution to the school problem”. And The Economist screamed that Kenya’s government “has scrapped the whole year, leaving its children idle until January.” But here at home, undeterred parents and policy makers are trudging along, clutching on to the hope that a vaccine will soon be found.
According to former ICT Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo, the world was already moving towards digital learning and the Covid-19 pandemic just hastened the process. The Government, therefore, ought to have embraced the times. “We are currently in a transition from the third to fourth industrial revolution. Learning is becoming personalised. Artificial Intelligence is making it possible for a learner to progress at their own pace,” Prof Ndemo told the webinar meet. George Njau, the Principal of Kongoni Primary School in Nairobi’s South-C, says digital tools are already showing great promise in the education of students. Kongoni is probably one among few public schools that have embraced the use of digital tools to keep students engaged since lockdown began. The school’s students who were meant to sit KCPE exam this year are continuing with learning via Zoom and the Mwalimu Plus e-tutor app.
Towards digital learning
“When lecturers teach fewer students, there is need for more lecturers and this calls for money. When a lecturer develops online content, they should be paid. Lecturers and students need laptops and bundles for effective e-learning system,” Wasonga said. Uasu Vice Chairman Mutuura Mberia said the Government should adopt the British system of higher education where students do not live on campus. “In Britain, private developers have come up with a housing model that accommodates four students and has a common kitchen where every student has a cooker. They learn in universities and leave for the hostels,” Prof Mberia said. He said this will allow for the Government and university managers to convert current hostels into lecture halls instead of using large amounts of cash to build new lecture halls and hostels. “This will enable social distancing as universities use extra cash to appeal to the telecommunication companies to put 4G network across the country to facilitate online tuition in urban and rural areas like Turkana,” Mberia said. He said e-learning has compromised the quality of education and should be done away with until there is proper infrastructure for it. Prof Elijah Omwenga, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academics and students affairs at University of Kabianga, said the challenge will be implementing social distancing and practical exams.
New facilities
[Additional reporting by Gardy Chacha]
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