In Kenya, schools officially reopened on 4 January having been closed since March last year to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. While this brings hope and a return to normal life for children, many schools do not have the correct preparations in place to safely welcome children back to the classroom.
During break time we stand by the wall and our class teacher speaks further about their meaning. We have learnt a lot from the murals and messages.
Fifteen million children were expected to return to school across the country, but thousands of failed to appear, with girls forming the larger part of these figures. The disruption to learning over the past year has seen an increase in the number of early marriages and teenage pregnancies during the 9-month closure period.
Although some measures have been put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 at schools, such as the mandatory wearing of face masks, the infrastructure at most schools has not changed to accommodate social distancing. Many parents are still worried that their children are unprotected from the virus so have opted to keep them at home.
To support the safe return of children at schools in the Kwale area, Plan International distributed 60 handwashing stations to 30 primary schools in the county. Each school received a 200-litre water container, hand washing equipment and 20 litres of liquid detergent soap.
“The handwashing kits we have received from Plan International will go a long way in easing the pressure from our parents. Our parents cannot afford even the most basic and simple handwashing materials,” explains head teacher Sura Abdalla.
As well as the handwashing kits, wall murals featuring COVID-19 safety advice and child protection messages have been painted in all 30 schools. “The educational murals on our school walls pass on some very important messages to us. I like them. During break time we stand by the wall and our class teacher speaks further about their meaning. We have learnt a lot from the murals and messages,” says Juma, a student at one of the primary schools.
Plan International will continue to support the safe return of all children to the classroom and is following Kenya’s return to school policy for teenage mothers and pregnant girls to encourage all the girls and young women who have dropped out of school to return so they can access all the opportunities open to them.