UNICEF has welcomed the Ministry of Education’s announcement that schools in Kenya will reopen from 12 October, starting with Grade 4, Class 8 and Form 4.
The closure of schools in March this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, interrupted learning for over 17 million students who missed more than six months of formal education.
“UNICEF welcomes the phased reopening of schools in Kenya,” Maniza Zaman, UNICEF Representative to Kenya, said. “We know that that the longer children are out of school, the greater the risk that the poorest among them will never return. They may be sent off to work, married off too early, or face other risks that can curb their development and well-being.”
UNICEF urged parents to bring children back to school as their classes reopen and to continue supporting their learning.
The risks children face by not being in school include; the drop-out rate for children at primary school level in Kenya was estimated at 21 percent before the COVID-19 outbreaki. It is possible that prolonged exposure means more children may drop out of the system.
The closure of schools exposes adolescent girls to a higher risk of sexual abuse, HIV and teenage pregnancy.
Schools are frequently a hub for children and their families to have reliable access to safe water and sanitation. Without going to school, a significant number of children (6 million in rural areas and 1.4 million in urban) have little access to safe water.
· Free school meals were provided to 1.6 million children in Kenya in 2019. These are vulnerable children, who rely on school meals for a reliable source of daily nutrition.
· School closures reduce students’ future earning potential. The World Bank estimates the economic loss from six months of school closure at $19,200 of lost earnings over a student’s lifetime, as a global averageii.
During school closures, UNICEF supported the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development with remote learning, including developing lessons for TV, radio and Internet and making sure that parents knew when these were on and how to access them. UNICEF also distributed learning materials to the most vulnerable families. This support will continue until all classes are re-opened.
To help with the safe reopening of schools, UNICEF has worked with the Government on guidelines for schools and is continuing to distribute soap and install hand-washing facilities in many schools that don’t have these. UNICEF will also be supporting the Ministry of Education with a ‘Back to School’ campaign, which aims to ensure that all children, including those had previously dropped out, return to schools safely when they reopen.
“As part of the UN family, UNICEF reaffirms its commitment to supporting the Government of Kenya during this unprecedented and challenging time,” Maniza Zaman continued. “As children return to school, we all need to come together to ensure that this transition is smooth for the learners, teachers and the wider school community. In addition to supporting water, sanitation and hygiene in schools, we will work with partners to provide parents with the reliable and accurate information they need. Finally, we hope that soon all learners can be safely back in school. ”