Our School Starts to Re-Open
We opened the school on the 12th of October 2020, this far the students have been in school for 3 weeks. Students that have been allowed back in school for in-person learning are those in grade 4, Standard 8/Grade 8 ( primary school graduates transitioning to high school ), and form 4's ( secondary school students in their final year. We have a total of 204 students, 26 teachers, and a handful of other staff who are helping in the day to day running of activities in the school.
On a normal school day, the total population in both schools is 1032 students and 81 teaching and non-teaching staff. Most of our students especially in primary school are from the Kibagare slum and they have been in their homes since March 18th, 2020 when schools closed. We are yet to get a way forward how soon all students might resume classes, this is due to the fact that there has been an increase in reported cases of COVID 19 and worse is students and teachers are contracting this virus in schools.
Here at St Martins and the Kibagare community, we are yet to report a case of the virus to date and we hope this remains so. Of the 204 students back in school we have observed that the long layoff has had a negative impact both on the students and the teachers. Adjusting to the new norm of having to learn with a mask on all day long is very hard on the children especially the young ones, in many instances, teachers make it their role to remind the children why things are as they are and advising them to ensure they keep the masks on. Teachers themselves have a hard time teaching with the masks on.
The long layoff has also had a huge impact on the much progress and that had been made with regards to education, prior to school closing the academic performance was on an upward trajectory and we were banking on doing even better. From the assessments that the few students have done in the second week after schools opening, we have observed that students performance has gone down to levels we have not seen in the last three years, this is an indication that in the long run, the happenings in 2020 will have a huge impact given we have 828 students who have been out of school for the better part of this year.
Life in the slums and generally in Kenya as is the case in many parts of Africa and developing countries, children and their families face a lot of challenges. To list the few that are closer home
No guarantees of a meal especially during this time where the economy has shrunk and massive job losses
Cases of child neglect and child abuse
Exposure to drugs, alcoholism, and domestic violence
Zero access to online learning platforms to aid in learning from home
No space to play and experience the joys of childhood
As a school we do not have solutions to all the above problems, the much we can guarantee our children is education, meals, space to play and learn, access to computers and online learning platforms, access to onsite medical care whilst in school, teachers, and staff who at times have to fill the void left by absentee parents and counseling.
Sister Emmah Karanja • Directress St Martins Primary Schoo