In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, Kenyan government, just like most other governments in the world, was forced to close learning institutions from primary to the tertiary level.
It is the best option and to the interest of learners and Kenyan population to safeguard the health.
However, two weeks after the schools were closed; Education CS Prof George Magoha announced that they would resume learning on March 23 through radio, television, YouTube and the Kenya Education Cloud.
First, CS Magoha seems to be misinformed, if not ignorant of the technological situation in the country, and the access of TV, radio and internet to Kenyans.
Kenya has at least 15 million learners, according to the 2019 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) census report.
Just for Prof Magoha’s information, the report which was generated by the same government he serves indicates that just one in five Kenyans has access to the internet. Assuming the same is reflected on learners, this means that only three million learners can access the internet to learn through YouTube. What happens to the remaining 12 million learners? This does away with any form of online learning, automatically.
On the option of TV, latest data from the Communication Authority (CA), the sector’s regulator, shows that at the end of September 2017, only 5.42 million people had bought both free-to-air and pay TV set-top-boxes.
The number is too low to accommodate the population. I will not talk about radio, since by all standards radio cannot be used as a form of teaching. Learning should be holistic, hence students cannot be taught through audio alone, and otherwise we shall have half-taught students taking national exams.
The reason a nation has such information is national planning and budgeting, especially during the times of crises like these.
Since the information quoted above comes from the same government Magoha serves, we can comfortably conclude that the policy makers and the CS are ignorant.
We can say that the Ministry of Education is engaged in announcements to just paint Kenya as a developed nation while in all aspects there is nothing tangible in real sense. In such a situation, Kenyans would tell you “vitu kwa ground ni different”.
A part from the numbers, most homesteads are now struggling to find food for their families, after losing their source of livelihoods due to the partial lockdown and closure of some markets. How do you expect a starving student to open the TV or YouTube to learn and be at par with other well-off students? They might even not have the electricity to watch the TV, let alone the time and energy.
Prof Magoha’s sentiments reflect Jubilee Party’s promise in 2013 of laptops for all class one pupils, who do not even have proper learning environment up to date. Some pupils were and still are learning under trees while others learn in mud-walled classrooms that are caving in.
The promise was never fulfilled and it might take the next 30 years to even start dreaming about it in Kenya, a country where almost every project doesn’t end without a scandal.
To Magoha, the best move would have been to accept that the curriculum has already been affected, which is a global thing, and go back to the drawing board to make education policies in readiness for when the situation is contained.
In natural disasters such as Covid-19, assuming it is natural, it is so difficult to win, and all that human beings do is save lives, hoping to revive the rest when things settle.
They say you can revive the economy, you can restart the education sector but you can never raise the dead. Magoha has to understand this, and more importantly, avoid being ignorant of the truth and get his numbers right before making any announcement.