The proposal earlier this year from the Kenya Parents Association that schools adopt a common uniform for students gave rise to much debate.
On one side was those arguing that it would make it harder for one supplier to monopolise uniform production for a particular school, keeping prices down. On the other was the thinking that a distinctive uniform reinforces the identity of a school.
As the Ministry of Education considers its uniform policy, it’s prudent to rekindle the debate.
Many countries around the world have eliminated school uniform altogether and, in some places, schools have brought it back.
It’s worth considering the role school uniform plays.
School uniform has pros and cons. On the plus side, it may instil a feeling of community among students. Secondly, it may help students to focus on their studies as they are not competing in their attire.
Uniforms could also improve discipline at school through the sense of community and reduced competition and out of school by making it easier to identify students while they are out and about in the community.
On the negative side, a school uniform represents a significant cost for parents — especially the poor ones — making it more difficult for their children to participate in school. Indeed, after school fees was abolished following the introduction of free primary education in 2003, school uniform is among the largest remaining expense for parents.
Most importantly, school uniform will not solve the most critical challenges in the country’s education sector. Our recent research illustrates this.
We studied what happened when a non-governmental organisation in western Kenya distributed free school uniforms to pupils in lower classes.
At the outset, children were absent from school about one day in five — 19 per cent of the time. When uniforma were provided, absenteeism fell to one day in eight — 12 per cent. For the poorest children, the improvement was even greater.
Why would school uniform affect absenteeism? If a child doesn’t have a uniform, the head teacher may send them home until they get one. If they have a worn-out uniform, they may skip school out of shame. Or if it gets too dirty to wear, they may stay at home while it is washed and dried.
A drop in absenteeism is, obviously, a good thing. Children who attend school for most of the time are more likely to learn. They should be more likely to then advance to the next class and, ultimately, complete schooling.
Here’s the twist in the story. We went back to the same schools eight years later to see how the pupils were faring. Those who had received uniforms hadn’t got any further in school than those who didn’t.
Why not? The most likely culprit is the quality of education.
Kenya has one of the highest rates of children in school in Africa, with nine out of every 10 children enrolled in primary school. Eight out of every 10 primary school graduates transition to secondary school, a big jump from a decade ago.
However, the quality of education lags. If students aren’t learning much in school, then boosting attendance a bit with free school uniform won’t lead to academic success.
Indeed, in the most recent citizen assessment carried out by Uwezo in 2015, less than half of students in Standard 3 could do Standard 2 work in mathematics, English or Kiswahili. If students do not learn to read in the early grades, it is impossible for them to learn more advanced content as they get older. It will be difficult to train the next generation of engineers and entrepreneurs without foundational skills like literacy and numeracy.
But Kenya is moving in the right direction. The Tusome programme is making a difference for early grade reading. The country carries out regular learning assessments — both national and regional — and seeking to use the results to help schools to improve instruction. Besides, a wave of teacher management reforms has been implemented to provide better support for — and accountability from — school heads and classroom teachers.
These are all promising initiatives. Careful evaluation will show whether they are achieving their desired ends and how to refine them going forward.
The road to high-quality education — the kind that all Kenyan children deserve and need to thrive — is a long one and it takes more than constructing classrooms or even a universal school uniform design.
Whatever policy Kenya chooses regarding school uniform, the focus needs to remain on improving the quality of education.
Mr Evans is a lead economist, the World Bank. Ms Ngatia is an economist, the World Bank.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.