From School Headmaster, Mr Peter Shanahan.
Easter was peaceful and certainly different the services taking place, although Easter Sunday Mass was streamed and televised live from the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi.
In terms of supporting students and their families what we can do is somewhat limited but we have allowed a number of families to collect their water from the school. Water is a big problem in Embulbul with many residents not connected to the local water system which itself has seemingly endless problems with its pumps, so many purchase water from kiosks. The parish operates one and recently has been busy with people queuing for hours to fill up their jerrycans.
So we have a number of families – students and staff – collecting their water from us at no cost.
The area Assistant Chief has also asked for a list of neediest families as part of the preparations for if / when a full lockdown comes in. I understand this would be in relation to distribution of food and other items.
The first instalment of Term 2 fees is due on May 6 but we will put a hold on this until we have a better idea of the situation.
We have also given a few students who support themselves some small jobs (ground cleaning and washing areas) to assist them. Only a few staff – dairy and security – are here each day whilst the admin / leadership team are around some of the time otherwise are doing things from home. I am here each day.
The Ministry directive for teachers was the same for the students – they are not supposed to be here.
The decision to close schools was very sudden – the first COVID – 19 case was announced on March 13 and schools received guidelines on hygiene and social distancing that day although we had been promoting this for a few weeks. Then on March 15 (Sunday) the President announced all schools were to be closed from March 16. So we sent a text message to all staff to be at school for a special staff meeting on Monday 16th.
Teachers were asked to prepare work (guided revision, assignments based on topics to be covered over the final month of the term) for their subject / classes to hopefully last the rest of the term. Once they completed preparing this (at home or school) they were not required to be at school.
We used our bulk text messaging service to communication with parents / guardians that the students had to come to school on Wednesday March 18 between 8.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. to collect books and their assignments. Approximately 80% did (others may have changed phone numbers and / or ignored the request).
Also we sent details about online / TV programs the Ministry of Education and Kenyan Institute for Curriculum Development produced and have been airing on specially designated TV channels and on the radio. A good idea but not many of our students have the internet, TV or a radio as is the case for the majority of working class / poorer families in Kenya. Email involves going to a cyber cafe some of which are closed or operating under social distancing rules (although this is openly flouted around our area). Anecdotally, we are told only a handful of students have accessed these. Remote learning Australian style is light years away unfortunately.
So if school does not resume for Term 2 on May 4 we are looking at producing another set of assignments for students to collect, although this has its challenges as some teachers travelled to the country to their family village / homes but now there are travel restrictions internally – no one is supposedly allowed in / out of the greater Nairobi regional area. They have to wait now for the travel bans to be lifted. This also is the case for a number of the students who travelled prior to the lock down on travel. Not being allowed to use the school to do their assignments / study is another challenge for many but hopefully some have been able to do this.
It is still very much a wait and see situation.