The Ministry of Education has ordered head teachers back to work and asked them to start collecting data on schoolgirls who have become pregnant during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The directive has caused confusion among teachers as it is not clear how it will be implemented. Schools remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the circular issued by Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang, the heads are required to work closely with the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government and the Ministry of Health to get full information on the identity and location of the pregnant schoolgirls.
The principals and head teachers are required to forward the information to ministry headquarters by July 23.
“The purpose of this letter is to have all regions, counties and sub counties collect data on girls who are currently expecting and those who have recently given birth and could be potential drop outs when schools reopen,” read the circular dated July 14.
The circular was sent to all regional directors of education, county directors of education and sub-county directors of education. It came just a week after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered investigations into the pregnancies.
Yesterday, Prof Magoha said that teachers are helping national government administrators to collect data on the number of students who could have been defiled when at home.
He said chiefs and their assistants were instructed to establish the number of schoolgirls who have been impregnated while at home.
“I am interested to find out the number of learners who are pregnant. Teachers are working with chiefs to find this out because they are both serving the same government,” the CS said.
Data on teenage pregnancies was released recently showing that hundreds of students were allegedly defiled when schools were closed.
Prof Magoha said the Ministry of Education does not have correct data on the number of teenagers who could have been impregnated during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He cast doubt on the figures saying the government will issue the correct data after teachers and chiefs collect the information from respective schools.
“I am equally puzzled about the data that is being released purporting to show the number of learners who have been impregnated. I believe the numbers could have been exaggerated for unknown reasons,” the CS said.
He spoke on Saturday at Asumbi Teachers Training College (TTC) in Rangwe constituency in Homa Bay County when he inspected the level of preparedness for the reopening of learning institutions.
He was accompanied by Rangwe MP Lilian Gogo, who expressed concern over rise in cases of defilement, which contribute to teenage pregnancies. The legislator said teenage mothers should be given an opportunity to go back to school after delivery.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli said collecting the data is a difficult task as principals and head teachers will be forced to call parents and guardians to ask them if their girls are pregnant, which could be very humiliating.
“Do you think a parent will tell you that their girl is pregnant?” he asked, adding that principals are being asked to do unimaginable and impractical things.
He said the government should instead involve village elders, ward administrators, chiefs and assistant chiefs to follow up on girls in their locality.
“The girls will give details of their schools,” he said
Mr Indimuli said even when the girls are in school, it is difficult to tell if they are pregnant because pregnancy tests were banned as they infringe on the privacy of the girl child.
The Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association chairman Nicholas Gathemia said primary school heads in rural schools may not have a hard time getting data as their pupils are mostly in the school’s locality.
But he warned that asking school heads to provide the data will not give an accurate record as they may be accused of giving false information or tarnishing the names of the girls.
“With the current generation, a girl can be pregnant today and tomorrow you find they are not, how will a head teacher prove those allegations?” he said.
Mr Gathemia said some head teachers in urban areas may not be able to collect the data as the girls may have moved to rural areas or moved location.
Kenya has recently reported a surge in teen pregnancies and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) with the cases being attributed to Covid-19 lock down.
On July 6, President Kenyatta directed the National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) to probe the vice in 30 days and report back to him.
In his circular, Dr Kipsang’ said the ministry required the information on the girls to come up with an intervention on re-entry when schools reopen in January 2020.
He said the pandemic had exposed learners at home to different challenges that will affect their education and lives.
Among the challenges include child abuse of both boys and girls, sexual abuse and early pregnancies.
Director of secondary education Paul Kibet has also written to Dr Kipsang informing him on the need for principals to get to work and collect data.
“Media reports indicate that there is a problem that need to be addressed and this is more so as it caught the attention of the President,” said Mr Kibet.
The directive by the ministry has not been welcomed by a section of head teachers and principals who said pupils and students are at home with their parents and tracking them may not be easy.
“How do we get to follow on a child who is with their parents when schools are closed, principals are not magicians,” said a head teacher in Nyandarua.
Another principal in Siaya County said to collect the data, principals will have to recall all teachers back to school for each to contact their learners which will not be an easy task as learners are under the care of their parents.
“To collect this data means, we go back to schools to start following up on our learners who are at home,” he said.
In several other sub counties, directors of education are asking school heads to recall teachers
In other areas, sub county directors have started writing to the secondary school principals and primary school head teachers directing them to ensure the teachers in their schools start reporting back to work.
In one of the memos dated July 14, by Tiaty West sub county director of Education Robert Maritim, he directs schools heads and teachers to keep watch of the schools.
“This is to inform you that reports reaching us indicate that most learning institutions in our sub county are left unmanned in the day and at night therefore exposing our institutions to vandalism and theft,” reads the memo that has Ministry of Education letterhead.
The ministry is directing the principals and head teachers to ensure that schools are guarded during the day and night.
Teachers are to be deployed on duty as usual while the heads are to ensure that bushes in schools compound are cleared.
The teachers are also to ensure that doors to offices, classrooms and dormitories are locked and safe to prevent thieves and robbers from breaking into schools.
In case of incidents of vandalism and theft, the teachers are required to report the cases to sub county directors of education.
The move has been fought by heads as they were directed to work from home. “Schools heads have been ensuring that schools are safe as they continue to work from home as directed by the teacher’s employer,” said Mr Indimuli.
Mr Indimuli added TSC directed teachers to work from home to cushion them from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Any directive that concerns the teacher should be done in consultation with the employer so that it does not create any conflict of interest,” he said.
Mr Indimuli said there have been reports of schools broken and property vandalised while others have been broken into and property stolen.
Mr Gathemia said to order teachers to go to school without consulting their employer should not turn teachers to be workers who clear bushes or watch out at night as their work is to teach learners.
He said teachers are dignified people and should not be seen as been idle as their safety and health must be guaranteed.
“Our employer directed us to stay at home, but that doesn’t mean we are idle,” he said
The TSC communication director Beatrice Wababu said the institution is yet to issue any circular directing teachers to report back to schools.
“TSC has not issued any circular to teachers to resume school,” she said.
Last week, teachers on social media were angry after it was reported that they were earning salary while they are out of school.
However, the teachers employer came to their aide and promised to continue paying their salaries regardless of schools been closed. TSC said teachers were out of school because of the ongoing pandemic and cannot be punished for what they did not cause.
Dr Kipsang is yet to issue any circular to disapprove the directives from a section of sub county directors.
Both the Kenya National Union of Teachers and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) said teachers are always on duty and continue to discharge their duties when called upon.
Kuppet secretary-general Akelo Misori said heads must work to ensure schools are ready for the new normal.
“Head teachers have been working to prepare schools ahead of the January reopening,” he said.
His counterpart, Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion said the supervision of schools rests with the teachers and no one should be absent unless they have a written permission.
“When schools were closed that did not mean that teachers stopped working because teachers are always on duty,” said Mr Sossion.
Prof Magoha said the ministry is working to ensure that schools are well prepared before learners resume next year.