The COVID-19 global pandemic affected regions of Africa in various ways. Before the onset of the COVID 19 pandemics, Kenya had a well-structured system of education. The Primary and Secondary school calendar ran from January to December. The terms comprised of three months of fully learning and a month in-between for breaks. The syllabi were structured to be covered in nine months at most. During the one-month break, both teachers and learners would seize the opportunity to rest and refresh before getting back to another engaging three months.
The pandemic changed all that, the Government of Kenya closed all schools and universities to reduce the spread of the virus. Learning institutions had to adapt; they were expected to implement online instruction using technology or the Internet and teachers were advised to prepare work for learners to do at home. This came with its own set of challenges such as lack of broadband internet and the cost of Wi-Fi in some remote areas limiting the amount of e-learning available to learners. According to the Institute of Economic Affairs on the impact of COVID 19 on Education in Kenya, nearly 70% of the schoolchildren in Kenya live in rural areas where there is a shortage of well-funded schools, trained teachers, books and supplies. The students often have to walk several kilometres to reach the schools, which are often small with large class sizes. Close to 25% of learners and especially those, living in urban settings could access virtual classes amidst challenges of connectivity to parents with insufficient education to assist their children at home.
Thankfully, the Country’s positivity rate reduced and schools were opened up. Children were expected to go back to school but COVID-19 had disrupted the lives of many families. Some had been hit hard financially, and some morally with a high rise of teenage pregnancies and early marriages. In addition to these rising challenges, historically, arid and semi-arid counties in Kenya have grappled with the inability to attract all school eligible children into schools due to a myriad of challenges. These challenges range from a nomadic culture that keeps families in the search for grazing lands; insecurity and conflict over pasture and water; deep belief in traditional forms of education as opposed to formal education and gender imbalances among others.
Social Intelligence and Reporting (ESIR) exercise, conducted in December – March 2021 revealed that Religious Leaders are highly respected within their localities and can mobilize out of schoolchildren to return to school.Tweet
Thus the need for like-minded partners to come together to address the issue of children not going back to school. According to a Social Intelligence and Reporting (ESIR) exercise, conducted in December – March 2021 revealed that Religious Leaders are highly respected within their localities and can mobilize out of schoolchildren to return to school. Using this feedback Inter-Religious Council of Kenya in consultation with the National Parents Association (NPA), County Director of Education (CDE) and County Interfaith Networks seized this opportunity of Religious Leader’s trust and capability to mobilize out of schoolchildren.
IRCK through its local interfaith networks in the counties engaged Religious Leaders who in turn mobilized children to go back to school. In Kwale County, the local interfaith network through Religious Leaders mobilized children to return to school. Fatma Bakari Koroyo was one of the cases that stood out. Only 13 years old, she had been defiled, gotten pregnant and dropped out of school. With the Religious Leaders intervention, she was taken back to school. Another case is of Mwaka, a 14-year-old who had dropped out due to financial strains at home, and she ran away to find work. Through the intervention of the interfaith network, they followed her and encouraged her to go back to school. These are just a few cases of interventions by the Inter-Religious Council through its interfaith networks.
Since 2010, IRCK with support from UNICEF, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Planning have worked together to respond to the various challenges facing the sectors of education.
by Janet Mwende