COVID-19: The education sector faces an uphill path

Form four students in Makueni during a weekend session as they prepare for their national examinations. PHOTO/Nemuel Oboiko.

They say when it rains it pours. The world is wrestling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Neither is Kenya an exception. The education sector is the worst hit.

For nine months, the sector was grounded. Learning came to a halt and many public and private schools closed. The reopening of schools for the 2021 academic calendar after a long ‘holiday’ is equally critical knowing too well that corona virus is taking pride in our midst. 

Confusion looms across the land as many remain in dilemma whether this was the right time to reopen schools. Everyday more cases of corona virus infections are reported.

Figures indicate 102,867 infections had occurred by the time we were going to press, with1,795 deaths and 85,008 recoveries.

As we ponder the hardest questions of the impacts of covid-19 on education, Dr. Janet Komenda, a lecturer at Moi University’s Department of Education Psychology says that there is no right time of reopening schools apart from this one.

“There are many challenges in reopening schools as far as I am concerned. But that does not mean we don’t reopen schools because we don’t know when this disease will be contained. So many things are happening to our children; they’re overgrowing and forgetting about school,” Dr. Komenda said in an interview over the phone.

Even so, Dr. Komenda says that having learners in schools may lead to stringent huddles.

Dr. Janet Komenda in a past event.

The closure of several private schools and an influx of students to public schools will make systems difficult to work.

Children are suffering from psycho-social issues such as teenage pregnancies. Some have become young mothers who may find it difficult to cope with the new learning environment in school amid harsh Covid-19 economic times. 

Learners need masks, schools need water tanks, sanitation equipment and other items that will facilitate effective learning. Unfortunately this is far from reality.

All these will make it difficult for schools to run effectively after reopening hence a reason postponing reopening, would have paid substantially to fully prepare how to handle learning under COVID-19. 

Learning under trees impossible

The education psychologist says that effective learning cannot take place under trees. She claims that the environment is not safe for children and instead it may expose them to adverse weather changes such as rain, strong winds blowing books away and even dangerous animals such as snakes endangering children’s lives.

“In fact, it will force children to converge forfeiting social distance,” says the psychologist.

Children need a positive mind as they resume learning for them to make gains. They know what has been going on.

They’re aware about the dangers of contracting the virus revolving around their lives. Some of the children have undergone frustrations due to covid-19 such as deprivation of basic needs and even losing their friends to the raging virus.

Dr. Komenda says that for such children to make it in class, they should undergo mental hygiene supported by professional counselors.

This does not apply to only learners but also to teachers.

“Counselors should take this time to help both parties to cope with the situation,” Dr. Komenda says, adding that lack of professional counselors could be one of the challenges that will shackle effective learning. 

Unpredictable performance

The academic calendar is now jolted and changed. Teaching practices are taking another dimension. Teacher–learner interaction is wobbling. Frustration and depression among parents doesn’t support conducive learning.

Children from private schools have moved to a new environment, public schools. Teachers must be willing to teach and learners must be ready to adjust to the situation for them to achieve good performance.

If both teachers and learners will adjust quickly the performance may be admirable but if not, the outcome may be disastrous. The performance will depend on mental hygiene as Dr.  Komenda puts it. Further, she alludes that performance this year is expected to drop slightly although that’s not a guarantee.

Adapting to new conditions 

Nine months at home is not nine days. Some students have forgotten about school and even began different ventures in life. The same applies to teachers. More is needed from both parties.

Learners and teachers should be quick to adapt and adjust to the new learning environment. Some learners are slow to adjust while others have high intelligence thus easy to shift to the current paradigm.

Teachers and counselors should identify those learners with difficulties in adjusting to the new set-up and help them. This positive initiative will help learners to get on board in a short while. The faster the adjustment, the better the performing output to both learners and teachers. 


Reflecting on discipline, Dr Komenda says teachers may have difficult times in managing learners during this period. The long recess exposed children to different environments.

In the nine months children have grown and even their social live underwent some changes. Some could have indulged into drugs and substance abuse and interacting with the wrong peer. She adds that discipline is paramount when it comes to performance. Therefore teachers should work out on how to maintain the valuable virtue in learners.

Co-curricular activities

Dr. Komenda pose for a photo with youths at Itibo playing ground last year 2020.

As saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, good performance can not come by only class work. After learning all day, children need to recharge and refresh.

That is where sporting and other co-curricular activities play a vital role in child development and performance. Unfortunately, with Covid-19 in our midst, children are barred from interacting in games as a way of curbing the spread of corona virus. 

Dr. Komenda says that although the situation learners are sailing through is comprehendible, teachers should come up with ways of having children play and participate in co-curricular activities in a protected approach.

She argues that exposing learners to only class work will make them burnout and lower their performance. That is why for those schools with enough space should have their students exposed to refreshing activities under Covid-19 safety measures.

Congestion and overcrowding

Public schools are experiencing an influx of learners from within and the closed private schools. The more than 60,000 learners from private schools are trying their lack in public institutions after more than 300 schools that were accommodating them shutdown as a result of Covid-19 economic strains.

Contrary, children are tasked to observe social distance to counter the spread of corona virus. The expectations are much far from reality while some students haven’t secured places in new schools.

The challenge may continue for a while as for now the government is not set to raise new structures to accommodate the hiked students in public schools. Overcrowding is resulting to insufficiency of teachers to handle the big numbers facing them.

One teacher should handle 20 students in a ratio 1:20 yet this will not be achieved, says Dr. Komenda. The result will have the few teachers in schools unable to teach effectively.

Dr. Komenda suggests that because schools can’t remain closed, schools should divide learning sessions into two in countering overcrowding of students and creating social distance among learners.

One group can begin at 6am to 12noon while the second sessions take over between 1pm to 5pm. She argues that this method is successful in countries with many students such as India and China.

With this approach, she explains that there will be a shortage of teachers although it may mitigate overcrowding in schools.

Government is also suffering

Reopening of school in January needed much more preparations but not much was done. The government was to cushion parents from the burden of paying school fees after many parents lost their jobs due to the disrupted economy by Covid-19.

As much as the ministry of education is asking school heads not to send away children for school fees, the doctor of education psychology says that parents too should understand that the government is also suffering. They did not collect taxes during Covid-19.

“This is not the only area that needs money, but so they do health workers, roads and other infrastructures. Parents should work hand in hand with teachers to see their children gain quality education.”

Dr. Komenda and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr poses for a group photo with laws students at Moi University after a career lecture about law. PHOTOS/Courtesy.

At some point, she points fingers at the rampant corruption in our country that has hindered what was possible. “The siphoned Covid-19 money through corruption could have helped to save the situation in schools,” she said during the interview.

The rate at which learners will resume to schools will be low. Psycho-Social factors could be the reason. This calls for teachers to assess the number of learners in comparison to previous records to identify those who haven’t reported.

At this point we need collective support of society from local leaders to individuals to help learners go back to school. Although there might be some challenges for young mothers for lacking care givers to young babies, if devoted, learners will be supported to salvage on their education rights.

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