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Why Amina made U-turn on new school system

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By NATION TEAM
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It took the intervention of top national leadership to put the implementation of the new education curriculum back on course, the Nation has learnt.

Pressure from high office and the concerted efforts of education stakeholders compelled Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed to change her tune from earlier in the week and announce that the roll-out will start in 2020, extending the launch date by a year.

The same pressure forced the minister to convene a series of meetings on Friday and Saturday to seek a safe path out of the debacle she had created.

On Saturday, Ms Mohamed met the National Steering Committee on Curriculum Review — the body in charge of advising and guiding the implementation of the proposed curriculum — and the team agreed that even though the programme would not be shelved completely, it had to be delayed by a year.

Speaking to the press after the meeting at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), the CS announced that the ministry and the steering committee had settled on 2020 to go full throttle on the new curriculum. The decision was based on the findings of independent evaluators, who had identified several weaknesses in the programme, including lack of funding, poor school infrastructure, and haphazard training of teachers.

The CS read a statement, but declined to take any questions from journalists, and left immediately.

Ms Mohamed threw the country into a panic when she told a Senate committee last week that the new curriculum will be put on hold for a while.

She argued that there had not been adequate preparations to allow its implementation. Effectively, therefore, the country was to continue with the 8-4-4 system for a while.

This sparked outrage from stakeholders, who argued that it was a major let-down to the country since heavy investments had been made in piloting the curriculum in Pre-primary to Grade Three levels.

Backtracking on the new curriculum also meant that those learners would be forced to revert to 8-4-4, and there were concerns whether they would be able to make the mental and skills shift as quickly as required.

Several things had to happen fast to avert a looming disaster in the education sector.

Sources within government told the Nation that Ms Mohamed’s announcement putting off the new curriculum had caused friction within the Cabinet.

Reforming the education sector was one of President Kenyatta’s campaign agenda and stalling the process, for whatever reason, meant back-pedalling on the pledge to Kenyans.

Since taking over the ministry early in the year, Ms Mohamed has only met the National Steering Committee on Curriculum Reforms once. The meeting at the weekend was the second, but this was occasioned by the crisis that had engulfed the education sector following her pronouncement on Tuesday.

Two weeks ago Ms Mohamed declined to attend the Nation Leadership Forum at the University of Nairobi that focused on the new curriculum, even after confirming that she would be present.

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Instead, the Cabinet Secretary sent the Principal Secretary, Dr Belio Kipsang, and KICD director Julius Jwan

The two officials confirmed that the government was ready to roll out the curriculum next year.

The wrangling over the new syllabus, however, goes beyond the boardrooms and policy documents to the vested interests of players in the multi-billion-shilling industry.

Investigations by the Nation indicate that some influential people in government have not been convinced that the country should change from 8-4-4 to the proposed 2-6-3-3 system.

And, to complicate the arithmetic, the Education ministry and its various specialised agencies are not pulling in the same direction, their animosity fuelled by various external political pressures.

Interviews with multiple sources show that there is divergence of view in government over the curriculum. And even among those paid to implement it, there is a push-and-pull regarding control of the process.

Also, no budget has been allocated for the review process by the government, and so most of the activities surrounding the roll-out, such as teacher training or conferences, are funded on an ad hoc basis by external donors, among them Unicef.

Units within the Education ministry have been haggling in boardrooms over who ought to champion the curriculum reform process, and in particular take charge of specific components such as teacher training or development of assessment criteria and materials.

KICD is the lead agency spearheading the reform agenda. However, other agencies such as the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec), have been uneasy with that arrangement. They view it as encroachment on their territories, especially in regard to teacher training (TSC) and assessments formulation (Knec).

It is because of this wrangling that the piloting of the curriculum has been handled badly.

During the steering committee meeting, an evaluation report indicated several weaknesses observed during the piloting period, including lack of financing, poor coordination by the various government agencies, insufficient school infrastructure, poor preparation of teachers, and overcrowding in classrooms, all of which undermined the learner-centred teaching espoused by the new curriculum.

Arising from this, the national steering committee resolved that the piloting continues until everything is in order, hopefully by the end of next year.

Consequently, Ms Mohamed announced that the ministry will set up a secretariat (National Educational Reform Secretariat) to manage the reforms, focusing on implementation, supervision and evaluation of the new curriculum.

The ministry will also put a request for Sh365 billion to implement the curriculum in the first four years, from pre-primary up to Grade Four.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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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.

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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.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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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

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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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.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

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.

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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.

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