“The new Abnormal”: COVID-19 Impact-Education in Kenya
Part 2 of “The New Abnormal” series by KenyaBuzz highlights the impact of COVID-19 on the education system and how it has, and will continue to affect kids and young adults in the country.
There is just something about a national crisis that has a way of shining a light on unpleasant realities — and nowhere is that truer than in our education system in Kenya. Since March, over 90,000 Kenyan schools were closed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
According to the Ministry of Education Emergency Response Plan, 2020, the closures affected close to 20 million children and over 300,000 teachers. Kids from poor backgrounds have been hit the hardest. For many of them, school offered an escape from the biting poverty at home. Many saw education as a way out of their material conditions.
Some even attended school just for the free meals and personal effects offered in many public schools by various non-governmental organizations.
Teenage pregnancies have soared since the advent of COVID-19 in the country. In Machakos County alone, 3,964 school girls (many of them from public schools) became pregnant in the five month period since March as school children stayed home due to restrictions.
Child labour has also increased dramatically and you can spot kids in villages and slums forcefully engaged in exploitative labour.
Public universities offered many young adults from underprivileged backgrounds opportunities they would have never even dreamt of. Staying at uni opened up the world for them. And now, everything is in jeopardy. Now everything is engulfed in uncertainty; their education, social connections and even prospective careers.
This pandemic has further widened the poverty gap for many kids and young adults in this country. It has brought to the fore the stark inequalities that our education system grapples with.
The closing of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and the haphazard switch to remote learning has laid bare the gaping inequities in educational opportunities that exist in this country.
Many kids and young adults in the public education system can barely afford the bare minimum. It’s ludicrous for the state to ask, no, demand that children and young adults enrolled in public institutions of learning participate actively in accessing learning materials online from government portals.
We could talk about how the government of the day failed to provide e-learning devices they promised the public 7 years ago and how they could’ve instead channeled the Ksh 7 billion bail out money for private schools towards bridging the virtual learning poverty gap but let’s not go off on a tangent here.
The point is, a generation of kids and young adults—including the millions who will be born this year—will have a tumultuous future in regards to their education. Especially if they’re from underprivileged backgrounds. Their schooling and formal learning have been disrupted and directly impacted them financially. This financial distress will have long-term negative consequences way into the future.
Kids and young adults in public learning institutions have been forced to repeat a whole year of school. This could’ve been avoided if the state was well prepared and had sound policies to ensure no child/young adult was left behind. But alas, here we are.
This is the new abnormal. It’s not going to be business as usual for children and young adults accessing education in public schools. And since the state has shown little regard for the well being of those hit the hardest by this pandemic, it’s up to us to bridge the gap.
What can you do? Volunteer as a tutor in your community, provide school supplies to needy kids, continue to demand accountability and service provision from the state. Just do whatever you can to ensure that no child or young adult is left behind.
Read Part 1 here
The views expressed here are that of the writer and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of KenyaBuzz and it’s affiliates.