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State launches crackdown on missing learners

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The government has launched a massive countrywide crackdown on learners who have not reported back to school following their reopening on Monday.

To this end, chiefs and assistant chiefs are under strict instructions to round up learners in their jurisdictions and ensure they are taken to school.

Today, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, under whose docket the enforcement of the crackdown falls, will tour Embu and Tharaka Nithi counties to assess progress of the back to school programme.

Officially, Matiang’i is expected to “oversee” the preparedness of schools to resume classes but those in the know said the CS will use the occasion to launch the crackdown aimed at ensuring all learners resume classes. 

The government has ordered the provincial administration, also referred to as the National Government Administrative Officers (Ngao),  to track down all students and pupils who have failed to report back to school and ensure they resume lessons.

Headteachers and principals have been directed to make daily reports on learners who fail to report back to their respective schools as learning institutions countrywide resumed classes after a nine-month break forced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

During a virtual meeting with County Directors of Education (CDEs) on Tuesday, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang’ said daily reports from headteachers and principals should be submitted to CDEs who will subsequently forward them to the provincial administration for action.

This, according to Kipsang’, will ensure all pupils and students whose studies were disrupted by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic would have to resume classes by all means.

“The President has given members of the provincial administration, in particular, chiefs and their assistants, to move to all homes and villages tracking down all learners who have failed to report back to school,” Kipsang’ told the virtual meeting attended by the CDEs and County Commissioners.

The officials were directed to form surveillance teams in their areas of jurisdiction to ensure all learners resume classes by Monday next week.

Headteachers, principals, chiefs, CDEs and county commissioners who fail to act would be held responsible for any learner who fails to report back, Kipsang’ reportedly told the meeting.

The CDEs were also ordered to ensure the government facilitated desks are supplied to schools by January 18.

The PS is said to have given reasons the government fears could lead to mass dropout of learners, including teen pregnancies; casual jobs in farms, quarries, boda boda and hawking; insecurity; early marriages; outdated practices such as FGM, and floods. There are also fears of learners contracting coronavirus.

Worst affected

The PS is said to have expressed fears that girls could be the worst affected, due to the high number of female students and pupils who became pregnant or got married during the pandemic period.

Some parents may also fail to take their children back to school after losing their jobs or having their businesses closed.

But educationists are faulting the government for failing to formulate clear guidelines on readmission of learners who may fail to report back due to pregnancies and early marriages.

The chairman of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KSSHA), Kahi Indimuli and his Kenya Primary Schools Headteachers Association counterpart Nicholas Gathemia, confirmed the directive had reached their members.

Yesterday, Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zachary Kinuthia disclosed that local administration officers had been ordered to crack down on pregnant teenage girls and ensure they report to school immediately.

Speaking in Mombasa during an inspection tour of schools, the CAS warned parents with children who are yet to report back to school will be arrested and held accountable.

“All pregnant girls must learn, there should be no excuse. Those parents keeping their girls from going to school, you will be arrested,” warned Kinuthia.

He said the local administration had been directed to ensure a 100 per cent turnout in school by Monday next week after he expressed satisfaction with the preparedness of schools in the coastal region to contain Covid-19.

Kinuthia visited Serani primary school where he established that only 90 learners had reported to school out of a student population of 283.

At Sparki primary school, 200 learners were yet to return yesterday after 1,000 turned up.

In Eastern region, an inter-ministerial agency has been formed to coordinate and monitor the return to school.

While on an inspection tour of schools in Embu county on Monday, Eastern Regional Commissioner Isaiah Nakoru said the team, composed of members of the local security team, officials from the Ministry of Education and other administrators, will ensure all learners report back to school.

Nakoru said the team will follow up on missing students to find out why they had not gone back to school.

He further said the team will monitor private schools, adding that so far they have no record of such schools that had shut down, but hoped to get more information after the exercise.

However, learners in private schools facing challenges will be moved to public schools to ensure they continue learning.

In Kiambu, County Commissioner Wilson Wanyanga warned parents who are keeping children at home to take them back to school or face the consequences.

Speaking after inspecting Mwiki primary school in Githurai, one of the most populous schools with a population of 3,551 pupils, Wanyanga said they will work with education officials to ensure all students report back to school.

“We have been monitoring with a team of education officers, administration officials, and security officers and are satisfied with the percentage of pupils who have reported back to school,” said Wanyanga.

County Director of Education Victoria Muli said her team, together with Ngao, is determined to ensure every learner returns to school.

“We are working with local administrators to implement the government’s directive and I can tell you that chiefs in our area are working tirelessly to see to it that no learner is blocked from studying, their conditions notwithstanding,” she told People Daily by telephone yesterday.

In Malindi, government officials launched a drive to ensure that all students return to school after the unprecedented long holiday occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. Deputy County Commissioner Thuo wa Ngugi told journalists his team would ensure compliance to all Covid-19 protocols in schools as well as track down any learners that have not reported back to school. Reports by Harrison Kivisu, Denis Lumiti, Mathew Ndung’u and KNA

In summary

    • Education CAS Zack Kinuthia disclosed that the percentage of reopening of schools in Mombasa County stood sat 70 per cent, saying there was room for improvement by the end of the week.
    • By yesterday hundreds of learners at the Coast were yet to return to school in remote parts of the region mainly in Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu counties.
    • According to Kinuthia, 86 per cent of the schools had reopened countrywide, but more will be done to ensure all institutions resume classes.
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