Parents, Teachers Outraged By Magoha’s Order To Close Schools Today
Parents and teachers were caught off guard yesterday when Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha abruptly closed schools.
At 8.34 a.m. yesterday, the CS’s communication office sent out a media invite requesting coverage of Prof Magoha’s inspection of construction work on Phase 2 CBC classrooms at Ofafa Jericho Secondary School in Makadara at 10 a.m.
However, at 9.24 a.m., the same office sent out another email informing everyone that the event had been canceled.
There was no explanation given. According to sources, the CS indicated that “something had come up” and rushed into a meeting at State House.
The news sparked outrage online from parents and others who called the newsroom to confirm the authenticity of the communication.
Magoha stated that schools must close today, contrary to his previous communication that they would close on Friday.
Many parents were still coming to terms with the announcement last night, which also stated that students would be required to return to school two days after the elections.
“Schools and parents are advised to ensure that learners from all basic education institutions proceed on their half-term break effective Tuesday, August 2, and resume on Thursday August 11. This communication supersedes any earlier communication,” said Magoha in a circular dated August 1.
Parents who spoke out yesterday expressed concerns about their children’s safety as well as the unexpected costs they are facing.
Most said they intended to send their children away by Thursday.
Parents who had to pick up their children from school were also concerned by the announcement.
The chairman of the National Parents Association, Nicholas Maiyo, summed up the feelings of the majority of parents.
He stated that traveling the day after the elections would be inconvenient, and he urged Magoha to reopen schools on August 15.
“Announcement of the presidential results is likely to be on August 10 or a day after. Travelling by public means immediately will pose a challenge to teachers and students,” Maiyo said.
According to Maiyo, such abrupt communication places a burden on parents.
“When schools close, parents are often asked to facilitate the learning of children at home and can struggle to perform this task. This is especially true for parents with limited education and resources,” he said.
It was also revealed that students would take mid-term exams before taking a break.
Akelo Misori, Secretary General of the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers, stated that the closure will severely disrupt curriculum delivery.
“Most schools had scheduled internal exams ahead of the original closing date on August 6. Parents with children in boarding schools had made travel arrangements based on the original calendar,” Misori said.
School administrators also weighed in, stating that they planned to keep students in school until Friday.
They said they would be counting losses, particularly on perishable goods purchased to last students a week.
Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kesha) national chairman Kahi Indimuli stated that many schools buy food in bulk to avoid volatile food prices.
“Most schools purchase their supplies in advance and in bulk due to unstable food prices, meaning most of them have huge stocks with them and regular interruption will affect them,” he said.
He claims that the early closure has irritated parents and school administrators.
Magoha, on the other hand, clarified that the announcement was a government position.
“I hereby convey the government’s decision on the immediate closure of all basic learning institutions with effect from Tuesday, August 2 to ensure that preparations and conduct of the upcoming elections is carried out seamlessly,” stated Magoha.
The manner in which the Ministry of Education announced the closure of schools was described as “casual” by Kuppet.
“The school calendar is not a property of the Cabinet Secretary for Education which he can shuffle as he wishes. The calendar is a pertinent planning tool for schools, parents and learners themselves,” said Misori.
Misori stated that it is illogical for schools to reopen just one day after the exercise, noting that school reopening is still in doubt.
“The Cabinet secretary wants schools to re-open on August 10 – a day after the elections. This is outright impractical since the elections will take nearly a week to conclude.
Moreover, parents need reasonable time to assess whether their children can travel and settle in school safely,” he said.
Misori criticized the government’s rationale for the closure and wondered who it consulted before making the decision.
“The immediate question is consultation with who? Any stakeholder with a legitimate interest in the school calendar would have advised against the hasty decision,’’ he said.
It has now been revealed that the decision was made at a higher level and that even the Education CS was not previously aware of it.
According to sources, President Uhuru Kenyatta was advised to close the schools after consulting with other government agencies, so that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) could adequately prepare for the elections.
During elections, many schools serve as polling and tallying stations.
Election dates have traditionally fallen during school holidays, but this year is different due to a congested school calendar caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in schools losing two terms in 2020.
The news comes after the IEBC approved the use of more than 200 schools as tallying centers.
If schools had closed on Friday, the IEBC would have had only three days to access the institutions before the election. The commission requested more time to induct the electoral officials on-site.
Even Prof Magoha was unaware of the decision to close all basic education institutions as of early yesterday morning.
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Only a few hours earlier, on Sunday afternoon, while on a tour of Kiambu County’s Rev Musa Gitau Secondary School, he announced that schools would close for the half-term break on August 6 and reopen on August 15.
This was communicated by the ministry in a circular dated December 3, 2020, when it announced the reorganized school calendar.
Jamhuri High School, St. Theresa’s Girls School, Aquinas High School, Friends School Chavakali, Isiolo High School, Kangaru Girls School, Nyeri Primary School, Kiambu High School, Mang’u High School, Thika High School, Moi Girls Kapsowar School, St. Patrick’s Iten School, Kabiyet High School, Samoei High School, Burieruri High School, Maua Girls School