The period between December 2019 throughout 2020 was the most difficult for almost all the countries across the world due to the covid-19 pandemic. The covid-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented crisis across all sectors of the economy as nations struggled to find better ways to curb the spread of the virus.
The education system in Kenya is among the sectors that were faced with a major setback. All schools and institutions in the country were closed. The schools’ closures interrupted learning for over 17 million children in Kenya and especially for marginalized areas where children were safer at school than home, heralded violence and discrimination against children, early marriages, child labour and even violence to children.
The re-opening of schools somehow has been a big step by the government. While it has not fully transitioned to normalcy, the return is a source of reassurance to some of the vulnerable children. With schools back, they will not be remarried off or sent to the farms to work as guards or be subjected to child labour.
2020 research by world Vision shows more than twice the amount of child marriage reports during the coronavirus outbreak from March 2020. The aid agency suggests this surge in child marriage is likely due to loss of livelihoods during the pandemic, rising poverty and lack of access to education and support services. The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely increased the pressure on families, threatening girls’ rights to live a safe childhood and realize their potential.
The aid agency further said that four million girls could be married off because of this pandemic, and we are already seeing this in several communities.
What has changed after the pandemic?
After the pandemic, not so much has changed in the sector. We still have thousands of children who didn’t go back to school because they were married off or sent off to work for their families.
A case in point for Nandi County where 289 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 got pregnant between January and September last year while another 5,717 aged between 15 and 19 got pregnant during the same period, this means over 6,000 girls in the county had to drop out of school just in one county.
While it has been a norm for children to drop out of school for poverty or such reasons as early pregnancies, the school’s closure phase during the pandemic doubled the numbers across all counties in the country.
The issue of online learning during the pandemic was a major invention in Kenya and it really played a big role in helping children focus on schoolwork while at home and we saw huge achievements in the past final exams results but it’s still, children in the rural areas and marginalized communities could not access to digital learning because of the digital divide. Students in the non-urban areas could not afford to use them as most apps require an internet connection or a smartphone which most still don’t have access to.
The growth of technology and online learning tools means we now have the power to deliver education anywhere, at any time and will be more effective if the government provides avenues to accommodate children on the other end of the digital divide. Covid-19 has created a foundation for opportunities such as remote learning which if adopted in the future will cover for such calamities if they occur.
Over 30 per cent of students in Kenya benefitted from remote learning through the pandemic period. A step UNICEF also believe should be a basic package of essential services for every child to revolutionize learning.
The Government has also committed itself to connect all schools to the Internet by 2030, ensuring that every student has access to digital learning.