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Pandemic exposes inequalities in learning

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Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has said national examinations might not be postponed this year, even as glaring inequalities emerged in the education system amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While private and international schools have been swift to embrace technology to teach, learners in public schools are still lagging behind.In some homes, smartphones, which are a basic requirement for online lessons, are not available.

Uncertain start

And in the face of an uncertain start to the second school term next month, Prof Magoha has said the ministry is weighing options that could be implemented if the health crisis takes a further toll on education.Amid the confusion, teachers’ unions have differed on whether national examinations should be rescheduled.The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) maintains that the level of anxiety in the school system does not allow for exams to be carried out on schedule.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), however, argues that it is too early to discuss national examinations, insisting that the focus should be on fighting the pandemic.

Teachers who spoke to The Standard described the preparation of candidates for national exams as chaotic and traumatising to learners, who are also demoralised.

Peter Kimani’s son is set to sit his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams this year and has been exposed to a computer.

Mr Kimani, however, expressed his concern for millions of other candidates who have no access to a computer or mobile phone.“Some children are suffering. Their parents are illiterate and cannot guide them in preparing for the examinations. There are teachers, too, who are not technologically literate. The coronavirus has exposed the country’s inequalities and unpreparedness,” said Kimani, a journalist and scholar.

He added that even in instances where teachers are tutoring candidates online, they did not understand the basics as they had just copied and pasted the normal timetable and content they used in normal classrooms, and were now sending this to pupils.“It’s chaotic.

In my case, they are using more than one platform. The class lessons are back to back and there is no provision for transition from the Zoom platform to Google learning,” said Kimani.He said there have been instances when the teacher is late for a lesson, leaving candidates stranded online.

“It is during instances like those that parents must be on guard, micromanaging what the learners do online for they could be easily distracted by games,” said Kimani.

The government is providing free lessons all learners, accessed through radio, Edu-Channel Television, EduTV, YouTube and Kenya Cloud.

With schools officially closed, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Acting CEO Joel Mabonga said soft education programmes are being run on these platforms to replace the rigorous class lessons.

These include past music festivals clips, field games, track events, science conferences, competitive quizzes and debates.Dr Mabonga said the lessons’ timetable is being revised to accommodate all children when schools are expected to officially open in May.

According to the 2020 school calendar, second term was scheduled to start on May 4 and to last 14 weeks. The closing date was planned for August 7.

Hacked lessons

A number of challenges have been identified with homeschooling, with some parents complaining about an inability to access the Internet.With varied syllabus implementation in schools, some students play catch-up during some of the lessons being broadcast.

Parents, however, complained that the broadcasts start new lessons even before children could comprehend the last ones.It further emerged that some of the platforms used for home schooling posed security challenges, with cases of lessons held on Zoom being hijacked by hackers who stream illicit content to the embarrassment of parents and learners.

“This crisis has provoked the reassessment of accountability and transparency of our system,” said Kimani.

Another parent, Selina Koiben from Ortum in West Pokot County, said she has encountered one challenge after another shepherding three Form Four candidates.“I am now at my wits’ end.

Two of my children are set to sit KCSE at Ortum Boys High and Propoi Girls’ Secondary School. A third one is to sit the exam at Ortum Mixed. I have no computer and I cannot afford to have three phones for all of them,” Ms Koiben said.

By Standard.co.ke


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Ruto: I helped Uhuru pick the BBI team but its mandate was changed to include changing the constitution without my knowledge

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Deputy President William Ruto has said that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) committee was not meant to change the Constitution.

While acknowledging that he had a hand in nominating the team members led by Senator Yusuf Haji, he said that the mandate of the team soon changed.

“When we were nominating those people, changing the Constitution was not part of their brief. That’s why if you look at the nominations that came from the Jubilee side, we were nominating people whose brief was to bring people together. Generally peace briefings. That’s why we nominated the chairman of the Kisii elders, the Kalenjin Council of Elders, Maison Leshomo (Samburu Woman Rep),” he said in an interview that aired on Citizen TV on Thursday evening.

“Be that as it may, when this exercise was concretised into a Constitution (issue), it was necessary for us to step in and say okay, let’s look at what proposals are being made. Some of the interventions that we have made are not unreasonable,” he added.

“I know there is a lot of push…that the train has left the station. But it is never too late to do the right thing,” DP Ruto said.

He also insisted that there is no legal framework within which the push to amend the Constitution is being made.

The Deputy President also reiterated his preference for a multiple choice referendum, noting that it would give Kenyans the latitude to make decisions on an article by article basis.

“It (multiple choice) is the best way to fashion our referendum. Parliament is already fashioning a referendum Bill that gives the possibility of us going to a referendum with options. It is not something far-fetched,” the DP said.

The DP said that he does not need to get all he has demanded in the constitutional referendum debate, even as he insisted that the issues he was raising were reasonable.

He said the TangaTanga group he leads is not being belligerent in demanding fresh changes to the BBI Bill, whose proponents have already collected over four million signatures in one week.

“We do not have to get everything we want,” the DP said in a live interview with Citizen TV.

The DP’s group has demanded a multiple-choice referendum held alongside the General Election, the provision to vary by 20 per cent the proposed 70 constituencies as well as the amendment of the provision for the proposed Judiciary Ombudsman to be nominated by the President and vetted by the Senate, saying the office holder should instead be named by the Judiciary.

“I have nothing to gain or lose in this referendum. My only stake is that if we are changing the Constitution, we are changing it to go forward, not backwards. Two, is to make sure that we do not divide Kenyans,” the DP said.

Referendum

He added: “If what we are saying is of merit, we can republish this Bill before signatures to IEBC. We can have Parliament to have a Bill to give Kenyans the chance to vote on multiple choices and not pushing them to a corner.”

He insisted that the option of a multiple-choice format referendum was Kenya’s best chance to not have a situation of throwing away the baby with the bathwater in the BBI

“We believe it is possible to have a referendum where Kenyans vote on articles independently. As leaders, we have to change of how we view Kenyans. Their views, concerns, ideas, proposals also matter,” the DP said, defending his call for Kenyans to vote for the different issues separately.

“There is a tendency to underestimate the ability of the common Kenyan to comprehend issues and make a decision. If you have six issues and you are telling them to make a decision, what is the problem?”

He said experts can package the sections of the BBI that go together, suggesting it could be divided on the basis of the changes to the Legislature, the Judiciary, Parliament, Executive, devolution, and the proposed 70 constituencies.

He cited cases he said were happening in Liberia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Peru, and the United States which he cited as those that have done multiple-choice referenda.

“It is not something far-fetched,” he said.

Divisive referendum

“The position I have taken is that a referendum is possible, that we can have a win-win outcome that we do not need have a divisive referendum…As a deputy president, I have a duty to do everything in my power to ensure Kenyans travel together.”

Citing instances of Covid-19 infection and deaths and the economic burdens that come with it, the DP reiterated his position that the referendum be held alongside the 2022 General Election.

“Kenyans are asking themselves are we mad? Why hold a referendum now instead of 2022? We have debts, people are losing jobs, parents do not know where to get [school] fees next year, NHIF is not paying bills….Surely, let us be serious,” he said.

He defended his defence of the Judiciary independence given his comments after the Supreme Court nullified the presidential election in 2017.

“An independent Judiciary is good for me whether I am in government or the opposition,” said Dr Ruto.

He insisted that President Kenyatta shares with him his vision of a united country.

“The President is my boss and my friend. These are things we have shared. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that he shares with me the hope of a united country,” he said.

-Nation


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KQ loses second pilot to Covid-19 in London

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The national carrier Kenya Airways has lost another pilot to Covid-19.

Captain Salah Salim Jeizan, 57, died at a London hospital on Wednesday, the airline’s chief human resources officer Evelyne Munyoki said in a condolence message.

Captain Jeizan flew to London’s Heathrow Airport on November 7 from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport but developed difficulties in breathing while in a London hotel.

Jeizan was rushed to the hospital from his hotel room and put on oxygen.

According to Ibrahim Johnny, a close colleague, the deceased will be buried on Thursday in London under the Islamic law.

Captain Jeizan joined the national carrier in 2001 as a junior pilot and rose through the ranks to his last position as a senior captain on the Boeing 787 fleet.

He flew to different international destinations in Europe, US and the Middle East.

“On behalf of the board of directors, the management and staff of Kenya Airways, we join the family of the late captain Jeizan in mourning their beloved one and pray that the almighty God will strengthen them during this time of sorrow,” KQ said in a statement.

In April Kenya lost its first captain, Daudi Kibati, days after commandeering a flight that evacuated Kenyans stranded in the US after the outbreak of Covid-19.

The captain was taken ill on March 29 after returning from New York and he died on April 1.

By NN


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DP Ruto: Unbeknown to many, I have been advising Uhuru on BBI issues

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In a wide ranging interview with Citizen TV’s Joe Ageyo at the former’s residence in Karen on Thursday night, Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto disclosed that he, infact, advises President Uhuru Kenyatta on Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) matters.

DP Ruto said: “As his principal assistant, yes I advise him. This is a constitution-making process. The constitution is about every Kenyan, myself included. If it is being amended, I do not have the luxury to stand aside and do nothing about it…I do not want history to judge me for not stepping out to speak out.”

He added: “Consensus for us is on content, process and timing. We have almost concluded consensus on content. We agree with the 70 additional constituencies but have IEBC delimit the areas…We are not saying our proposals must pass, we are saying that our proposals are reasonable.” Watch:


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