Thousands of learners in Kenya failed to report back to school on Monday as directed by the government, raising fears of mass dropouts across the country.
There have been concerns that many learners will drop out owing to various reasons. Girls are the most affected, with many having become pregnant or married during the time they were out of school.
Many other learners have been working in farms, quarries, boda boda trade and hawking in some towns.
Some parents have also delayed taking their children back to school having lost their livelihoods through job losses and failed businesses.
Some learners did not report back due to insecurity, teen pregnancies, early marriages, initiation rites, floods and fears of contracting Covid-19.
Central Primary in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu Gishu County in the Rift Valley, recorded 70 per cent attendance on the first day of term two.
“Most of the Grade Four and Class Eight pupils have reported back to school. We have advised those with underlying health conditions to stay at home and the teachers will engage them and give them homework,” said Ben Uluma, the head teacher.
At Uasin Gishu Primary, 800 out of 1,200 learners reported back. “We have about 85 per cent of Standard Eight learners who reported. We don’t know where the rest are. We fear that some might have given birth some parents also lost jobs and some moved to rural areas, and some of the learners have not travelled back,” said Robert Kamau, a senior teacher at the school.
Social distancing rule
Kapenguria Boys High principal Moses Ndeda said the school will reopen tomorrow, noting that they have converted dining halls and libraries into classrooms so they can accommodate the 1,782 students in the institution.
In Elgeyo-Marakwet in the Rift Valley, teachers said students reported back in large numbers, making adherence to the social distancing rule impossible.
"On top of the hand washing points, we need hand sanitisers for teachers and students. We also have a shortage of desks, which makes it hard to properly observe the one-metre rule among learners," said Mr David Chesinen, the head teacher in Kabarar Primary, Marakwet West.
Schools in Marakwet East, however, recorded low student turn-out, a situation parents blamed on their readiness to pay fees and provide basic needs for their children.
"Most of our sources of livelihood were affected by floods and mudslides. We are yet to fully recover, thus we have not paid full fees for our children. It will take some time before we are up to the task," said Mr Francis Murkomen, a parent at Wewo in Marakwet East.
In Nandi, a report from the county health department indicates that some 6,006 girls will not report to school after they became pregnant.
According to Health Executive Ruth Koech, 289 girls aged between 10 and 14 years became pregnant between January and September 2020, while another 5,717 aged between 15 and 19 got pregnant during the same period.