Effects of COVID-19 on learning in Kenya

The global lockdown of education institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has caused major challenges to learners and the whole education system in general. To curb its spread, governments worldwide moved to suspend face-to-face teaching in schools, affecting some 95% of the world’s student population—the largest disruption to education in history. In the beginning, most African countries did not believe the virus would hit their nations and continued with their business as though nothing was happening. The coronavirus would later be reported in some African countries like Nigeria and South Africa, leading to widespread panic.

In Kenya, leaders, businesses, and communities took quick and decisive action to minimize the economic and social impact of the pandemic and control the spread of the virus, including early social distancing and movement restrictions; this is after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in March. On the 15th of the same month, 2020, the government abruptly closed all schools and colleges nationwide in response, disrupting over 17 million learners countrywide. Given the abruptness of the situation, teachers, administrations, and learners were unprepared for this transition. It only meant that they would not resume anytime soon as the President had ordered permanent closure until further notice. One year down the line and the learning continues to face challenges occasioned by the closure. We’ll break it down as follows:

1. Unequal access to remote learning

Our Kenyan structured model of 8 years of compulsory education, including preschool and primary education, followed by secondary education or vocational/technical school, and then tertiary education such as universities have all been physical. Not even a single institution had thought of remote learning. Nearly 70% of the school children in Kenya live in rural areas with a shortage of well-funded schools, trained teachers, and books and supplies. Expecting these schools and parents to implement online learning was impossible due to the lack of broadband internet, network infrastructure, equipment, and power in most rural regions.

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Children with limited learning support at home have had no means to support their education as other capable institutions adopted remote and digital mode of learning thus created a wide gap in education equity. COVID-19 widened this digital gap between people who have sufficient knowledge and resources to access technology and those who do not, thereby perpetuating worse education inequity.

The Ministry of Education Sector Disaster Management Policy drafted in 2017 and launched in 2018 was meant to provide an institutional framework for coordination, communication, information management, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of Education in Emergencies interventions in Kenya. Unfortunately, much had not been achieved then until when COVID hit.

2. Widened physical contact between the teacher and the learner

COVID-19 has voided physical contact between teachers/instructors and learners due to the need to avoid physical interactions. Social distancing has been considered a precaution to reduce personal contact, and it was anticipated to slow down the transmission of the virus where people would contact mostly. Since school environments are socially dense, and children and teachers interact with each other during class hours, education was one sector that had to be closed immediately. This brought about the challenge of content delivery from the instructors to learners, impacting heavily on Kenya’s learning exercise.  

In reaction to institutional closures instigated by COVID-19, the government and UNESCO  recommended the utilization of distance learning platforms and open education applications, and any other platforms that institutions and instructors could utilize to get in touch with students distantly and minimize the interruption of learning. The challenge was for teachers and administrators to identify and develop mastery of new instructional strategies to effectively deliver the content to learners.

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3. Disrupted academic calendars and assessment

Kenya faced a most disrupted academic calendar and learner assessment in its educational history. Just last week, I wondered how high schools opened for one week and closed again for a half-term break, even after a long December 2020 holiday. Below is a revised version of the academic calendar for 2021.

Term 2 and 3, 2020.

Term 1,2, and 3, 2021.

On assessment, the Kenya Certificate of Primary Examination (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), which have always been administered from October to December, was rescheduled and administered in March 2021. KCPE exams were concluded on March 24, and its results were released on 15th April. KCSE examination marking commenced on April 19, concluded on May 7, and was released on May 10. On the other hand, the careers of 2020 university graduates were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some universities held online graduations for students that had completed their studies before the pandemic. In contrast, in some other cases, final-year students experienced major interruptions in their assessments that pushed their graduation to 2021.

4. Impacts on health and well-being

Not only are schools an important resource for academic learning, but they are also a source of important health education. Nutrition, eye health, and sexual and reproductive health were all taught in classrooms or after-school groups. In the absence of this education and supervision, teenage pregnancies have significantly increased in Kenya in recent months. There are also cases of the upsurge of antisocial behaviors and learner dropouts. Schools in Kenya also play a significant part in social protection and, in particular, the provision of basic needs for children from poor, vulnerable, and marginalized communities.

Enock Bett
Digital Media Enthusiast|Tech, Business, Corporate Affairs, Politics, and Governance. [No Modes]
EMAIL: [email protected]
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Enock Bett

Digital Media Enthusiast|Tech, Business, Corporate Affairs, Politics, and Governance. [No Modes] EMAIL: [email protected]

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