When the first reported case of COVID-19 in Kenya was published on 13th March 2020, the government acted quickly to impose restrictions. These included limits on movement with a dusk to dawn curfew and a ban on travel in or out of Nairobi and Mombasa counties. They immediately directed the closure of schools which meant that students returned home later that week.Those who are able and have access to study materials have been studying at home since then and will do so until the end of the year.
The Kenyan school calendar year runs from January to November. The highlight which is the KCSE secondary school exams would have been due from 2nd November 2020. The current directive from the Ministry of Education is that schools will now remain indefinitely closed. The 2020 school year in Kenya has been disrupted meaning that children will remain at home until the end of the year and re-start school in January 2021.
There will be neither end of school exams for Primary nor Secondary school pupils in 2020. They will return to their current school year and start this class afresh. This is quite a drastic decision. It is also an unfortunate one as some of the children under our scholarship program have in the past had to either miss school or repeat classes and in extreme cases miss or re-sit a school year because school fees was a problem. Our scholarships have been seeking to bridge this inconsistency and give a chance to the very needy yet promising children through your generous donations.
While the magnitude of this government directive may not be immediately fathomed, there are immediate consequences for all families with school-going children. There are those who have been at boarding schools who will end up spending around nine extra months at home this year. For many in the rural villages, home study is extremely difficult as families simply don’t have a laptop or any form of computer access, let alone easy access to the internet. So while materials are available to download, many can’t afford to access them. Textbooks are normally shared in ratios at school so some may not have access to curricular content for home study either.
The outbreak also meant that we had to cancel plans we had made to run local workshops for the students we sponsor. They had been due to attend a one-day mentorship workshop in April that was to take place in Kisumu county. We believe mentorship is one way in which we can inspire the students to remain positive, focussed and hopeful till a semblance of normalcy resumes for continued structured learning.
With schools closed, we are exploring whether we might have a work-around plan to run these workshops later in the year albeit in small groups. This may be possible because the Cabinet Secretary has confirmed that out-of-school tuition is permitted provided that organisations follow COVID-19 guidelines.
The number of cases in Kenya remains low compared to other parts of the world. They have just passed 30,000 cases and have reported less than 500 COVID-related deaths. However, these numbers are rising. So we will continue to monitor the trend closely, so we can assess whether it becomes safe to run workshops during which students will write you letters.
The government has also clarified the situation regarding school fees. They have confirmed that schools should either refund the school fees paid for this academic year or agree to put it towards next year’s fees. As children did attend school until March, we have to wait to see if this applies to the whole year's fees or just Term Two and Three which were missed. It is likely that we will have to cover the Term One fees for 2021, with Term two and Three being carried forward. This may translate to an extra expense in Term’s fees, which we had no possibility of envisioning at the beginning of the year 2020.
One of the other unfortunate consequences of having children at home for such a long period of time has been the rise in teenage pregnancies in school-going children, abuse of drugs with young people having lots of idle and unstructured time. Young girls are highly vulnerable to older predatory men. Initial figures suggest that there have been up to 150,000 teenage pregnancies during the three months of lockdown so far. This means that affected girls may not be able to return to school when the school year resumes and inevitably some will never complete their education as they have to fend for their livelihoods and their newborns.
We’re clearly keen to stay in contact with all the students we support to ensure that they remain safe though it is a huge challenge because we cannot meet some of the children’s needs while at home.
As people around the world adjust to life with COVID in our communities, the foundation would like to request you to continue to help us adjust with the times by supplementing our efforts. In this regard, we have identified the need to further support the children we sponsor which will also assist their families to a great extent. Food and sanitary towels for girls are the most requested assistance from our sponsored children.
While we may not afford all their nutritional needs, we propose workable options as follows:
Adopt a child for Ksh. 3500 (USD 35) per month for the five remaining months till the end of 2020
Donations in kind: sanitary towels and dry cereals, cooking oil at a drop off in Kisumu town which the foundation can drop off at the children's villages.
Books and educational materials would be a welcome addition to diversify their limited learning materials.