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The Ndoto Journal

20

Jul

School Closed Again


Students in Kenya got more disappointing news from their government. With the rising instances of COVID-19 in Kenya and the lack of resources in the school system, Kenyan schools will now remain closed for the remainder of the school year, which aligns with the calendar year. Hopefully, schools will re-open in January, but the Ministry of Education has announced that all grade school students will repeat their grade in 2021, as students only received one of their three terms in 2020.

Education Secretary George Magoha. Photo: CFM-FILE

While Kenya has fared better with the coronavirus than many other countries (the nation has around 11,000 confirmed cases and just 202 deaths, out of a population of over 53 million), the country has only succeeded at avoiding exponential growth, not at flattening the curve of new infections. At the same time, it is impossible for Kenyan schools to provide any e-learning opportunities.

For students, reliable electricity in homes is not commonplace. Almost no students have devices larger than phones, and of those, most are not smartphones. Internet access is limited at home, and the data that is available is prepaid and costs a prohibitive amount for our students’ families. Many teachers don’t even have access to internet-enabled devices and have no platforms or resources to produce e-learning, even if students were able to access it.

Children in Nairobi who would otherwise be in school. Photo: Brian Inganga/AP

 

At schools, classrooms are packed, often 100 students to a teacher in a room the size of a typical US classroom. Neither children nor teachers have ready access to masks like we do in the US, and boarding schools often have bunk beds crammed just inches apart. The government would love to re-open schools, but only when they know how to prepare for it and make it safe for students and teachers alike. The government is hoping that college and university students can resume in September with a blend of online and in-person learning.

A typical, even somewhat roomy, classroom in Kenya. Photo: Ndoto (Ashley Reed)

In Kenya, the significant majority of annual school fees are due with the first term, which we paid in January on schedule. It’s disappointing to see the school fees go unused, but we hope it means that the teachers who will be vitally important next year are receiving some pay. The small amount that Ndoto has been able to save this year is helping to cover the students whose sponsors have had to step away in the last few months, and we are setting some aside for extra tutoring, student gatherings, and extra-outstanding retreats in 2021.

We are grieving for our students in having to repeat a grade next year, but we are thankful that they and their families will be safe. There are no changes in sponsorship at this time, and likely won’t be in January, either. We don’t yet know what this means for college student graduation dates, but we’ll keep their sponsors updated as we learn more. Our staff has been working hard for months staying in touch with students, encouraging them, and meeting individual needs. We are blessed by your support to keep serving our students in whatever way we can!