Teachers want congregated meals, field trips, school assemblies, physical education and choir classes banned before schools are re-opened.
The teachers also want the school feeding programme activated to ease financial and logistical pressure on parents and guardians and non-essential visitors barred from schools.
They want all learning institutions currently being used as Covid-19 isolation centres vacated immediately to pave way for re-opening when the situation is declared safe. The schools should be fumigated under the supervision of public health officials.
Fumigation should also be done to all schools before opening and conducted every evening after school time. They also want schools re-opened only after they have been declared Covid-19-free zones.
These are among the proposals sent to Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and Parliament by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) yesterday.
“We want classrooms reconfigured to facilitate social distancing and reduce physical contact. Children with flu-like symptoms should be treated with extreme care and without stigmatisation,” said Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion in his proposals to Prof Magoha.
Knut also wants every teacher, learner and non-teaching staff taken through Unesco Covid-19 education response manual and children with special needs accorded preference unlike before during and after this pandemic.
“Teachers, non-teaching staff and members of the technical teams assigned to schools should be provided with personal protective equipment (PPEs) to ensure and guarantee their safety,” Sossion said.
The union called on the Government to provide counselling services to learners and teachers, saying the disease has heightened stress among learners, especially the candidates.
“Teachers have to assess the impact of Covid-19 on the mental being of learners. Together with management, they should know that some learners will be more sensitive than others to change,” Sossion said.
He urged teachers, health workers, quality assurance and standards officers and social workers to talk to the learners upon opening to explain why some measures are being taken. They should do so in a manner that expresses care and concern rather than fear.
“Prior to opening, let quality assurance and standards officials, boards of management, public health officials, Knut, Kuppet, Kenya secondary and primary heads associations and religious organisations jointly inspect schools to establish compliance of the requirements,” Sossion said.
He called for the formation of technical teams that bring together all stakeholders in the education sector to oversight day-to-day operations of schools.
“There should be screening of teachers, learners, non-teaching staff every morning and evening to guard against recurrence of the virus,” Knut said.
Kuppet, on the other hand, called on Parliament not only to focus on the resumption of normal learning in schools, saying this would be part of the overall national post-Covid-19 recovery plan.
“Senators should add their voice to the national dialogue on how to marshal concerted, diligent action that will help us defeat this disease together and set Kenya on a new path of national development,” said Kuppet Secretary General Akelo Misori in the union’s presentation to Parliament.
For that to happen, Kuppet urged Parliament to pass legislation commensurate with the emergency that the country is facing.
“In the education sector, we have witnessed a demand for the re-opening of schools by those whose livelihoods depend on the school supply chain. This is because the Government has not alleviated the suffering of the most vulnerable members of our society,” Misori said.
He said it is a shame that poor countries like Uganda, Rwanda and even Somalia can organise relief to their poor when in Kenya there is only talk about the economic crises people face.
Kuppet said it will not support any move to re-open schools unless there is evidence that Covid-19 is being contained.
[The writer is a 2019/2020 Bertha fellow]