The government has finally clarified the school calendar. Second term begins in June, not next week as earlier planned, putting learners out of school for two and a half months.
Arguably, this is a major disruption and, although schools have been closed for weeks in the past, especially during teachers’ strikes, this is unprecedented. When schools were closed in mid-March, learners had not sat the end-of-term examinations and teachers had hardly covered the syllabus. What it means is that a lot of work awaits learners and teachers when schools reopen.
Crucially, the closure affects Form Four and Standard Eight candidates, particularly regarding their preparation for the national exams. Ordinarily, exam classes complete the syllabus in second term and devote third term for revision. In fact, in July they sit mock exams, which is a test run for their preparedness and with the understanding that they have completed the syllabus. This is not going to be the case this time round. By the time they go back to school and pick up from where they left, second term will be over with learning content not fully mastered.
It is instructive, however, that Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has made a commitment that learners, especially candidates, will not be disadvantaged. Our reading of that is, the Education ministry will revise the calendar to create more time for teaching and learners to go through their coursework.
To realise that, the second term should be extended by three weeks, the August holiday shortened to just one week and third term prolonged to the end of November. Importantly, primary and secondary school exam dates should be pushed by a month, to November and December, to free more time for learning.
Everything held constant, exams should not be cancelled; they should just be postponed. However, all co-curricular activities have to be suspended for the rest of the year to focus on academics.
A matter of concern that we have pronounced ourselves on here is the challenge of online teaching and learning that the ministry has been pushing through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD). Our argument remains that the plan is novel but not feasible.
A large majority of learners cannot access the programmes through radio, television and online due to practical challenges of unavailability of the requisite infrastructure such as power and internet connectivity and also gadgets and financial resources for airtime. Worse, there is no system for supervising the learners.
In view of this, the government should work towards a definite reopening of schools in June so that all learners can resume studies under the assured tutelage of their teachers.