Schools across the country reopened yesterday to a year and new term packed with various activities among them the launch of the new curriculum and reporting of Form One students.
Early Childhood and Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang – in a circular dated January 2 to all regional, county and sub-county directors – ordered all field officers to resume duty to oversee the reopening of schools.
“You need to ensure that the learning institutions in your areas of work are safe and secure and that learning is going on uninterrupted,” he said.
He asked the county directors to liaise with respective county commissioners to ensure individuals who attempt to disrupt learning are dealt with in accordance with the law.
Yesterday, parents and learners were busy preparing themselves for the opening of schools.
A spot check by the Nation established that bookshops and uniform retailers were filled to capacity as parents ensured their children had what they needed before they report to school.
The Education ministry in December pushed the opening date of schools from Wednesday to Thursday.
On Wednesday, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the ministry was ready for the opening of schools.
As the new term begins, county directors are also expected to oversee the rollout of the Competence-Based Curriculum that is expected to replace the 8-4-4 system.
Yesterday, the Kenya National of Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) met following a court order compelling the two parties to negotiate.
In Migori County, teachers reported for the first day of the school term following court orders that barred the looming strike that had been called by Knut.
However, schools registered low class attendance as many learners failed to turn up.
Migori Knut executive secretary Caleb Opondi said teachers decided to obey the court which barred teachers from going on strike.
In Kisumu, there was a low turn out of pupils, especially in rural areas where the parents preferred to keep their children at home and release them on Monday next week.
Ayaro primary in Kisumu East Constituency, with a population of 420 pupils, only recorded a turnout of 100 pupils, with no pupils reporting in grade one and only nine in grade two.
However, schools in urban areas, such as Migosi primary, had close to full attendance and learning commenced yesterday.
Optimistic parents in Mombasa County expressed their joy as the ministry began rolling out the CBC in public schools across the country.
“I am here at Ganjoni Primary School for my child’s admission. The curriculum is good because parents will be involved in their children’s learning,” Ms Miriam Mukuhi, a parent of a grade one pupil, said.
Ganjoni headteacher Nthiga Alfred said grade one admission at the school was at 100 percent.
In Tana River County, most schools were almost empty, while in others, pupils reported to school as late as 11am.
Some of the learners who spoke to the Nation said they thought the teachers strike was on, and so chose to stay at home to wait for further directions.
Meanwhile, Tana River Knut secretary Michael Babwoya asked teachers in the county to report to school following the suspension of the strike by court.
Knut national executive council member for coast region Dan Oloo told journalists in Mombasa that they welcomed the court’s decision on the strike, but said if their demands are not met the strike would go on.
A spot check by the Nation in Nyeri, Murang’a and Meru counties showed that teachers were at their work stations by 8am and were attending to pupils.
At DEB Meru in North Imenti, headteacher Judith Ntumbari said only one teacher, who is on maternity leave, was away while at least 80 percent of pupils were present.
Muranga South Knut executive secretary John Njata said he ordered teachers to report to school to see whether TSC will comply with the court directive and head back to the negotiations table.
Parents in the North Rift flocked to bookshops and uniform outlets in Eldoret Town to buy various items for their children.
At Central primary school and Uasin Gishu primary school the same low student turnout was witnessed with some parents coming to school to pardon their children for not opening school yesterday.
The situation was the same at MCK Kaaga Primary School where headteacher Lewis Ibaya was busy admitting new pupils while other teachers distributed textbooks to pupils.
“All the teachers have reported and are working as usual,” he said. The situation was the same in schools across the county.
Most of the teachers who sought anonymity said they were not ready to go on strike since the industrial action did not address issues that concern teachers who are not in management.
“Delocalisation is not an issue that concerns us, if they were talking about AON, we would join in,” a teacher in Imenti South said.
But local Knut officials put on a brave face, saying teachers reported to work due to the court order.
Meru Central Knut Executive Caxton Miungi teachers were ready to hold demonstrations.
“We were ready for the strike and had put in place a full brigade; but after the court ruling we decided to honour the court. We have told the teachers to report to work and parents to take their children to school,” he said.
Mr Miungi said six Knut officials under his branch had been transferred while more had been delocalised in Meru North.
Teachers in Murang’a have reported back to school following the court directive.
Muranga South Knut Branch Executive Secretary John Njata said: “We want TSC to go back to the negotiations table and that’s why we adhered to the court’s directive to halt the strike.” h
On her part, Technology Primary School headteacher Beatrice Ng’ang’a said their concern was the students and that they could not have absconded school because they wanted to assist pupils.
“Our interests are aligned with that of the child and we follow orders from our employer who happens to be TSC,” she said.
Reports by Faith Nyamai, Vivere Nandiemo, Caroline Mundu, Winnie Atieno, Stephen Oduor And Samuel Baya, Charles Wanyoro and Ndungu Gachanek, Edith Chepngeno and Wycliff Kipsang
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.
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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.