Inside State House Meeting Leading To Magoha's Order To Close Schools

By the early morning hours of Monday, August 1, the CS was not aware of the decision to close all basic education institutions

Inside State House Meeting Leading To Magoha's Order To Close Schools
President Uhuru Kenyatta received the 2021 KCPE results from Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha. /PSCU

Education Cabinet Secretary, George Omore Magoha was just as caught off-guard as millions of parents across the country when he ordered the closure of all schools beginning today, Tuesday, August 2.

Media reports have now revealed that the order was courtesy of orders from above. By the early morning hours of Monday, August 1, the CS was not aware of the decision to close all basic education institutions, having announced the day before that schools would close for the half-term break on Saturday, August 6 and resume on Monday, August 15.

"I would like to urge principals who still have students at home to immediately bring them back because we are breaking again on August 6 and we shall not open until 15th. If you want to engage the parents then do so when the children are still at home so that if there is a school fee to be paid, it should be paid then," he revealed during a tour of Rev Musa Gitau Secondary School in Kiambu County.

Education CS Prof George Magoha. /KBC DIGITAL

On Monday morning, the communications office of the Education CS sent out a media invite asking for coverage of Magoha’s inspection of construction work of Phase 2 CBC classrooms at Ofafa Jericho Secondary School in Makadara scheduled for 10.00 am.

However, moments later, the same office sent out another email revealing that the event had been cancelled with no explanation provided. The CS had run into urgent matters and rushed to attend a meeting at State House.

It was after that meeting that a press statement was released which announced that the closing date of schools ahead of the August 9 general elections was moved forward, an announcement that caught the whole country by surprise.

“As you are aware, Kenya is scheduled to conduct its national elections on Tuesday, August 9 2022. Therefore, following consultation, I hereby convey the Government’s decision on the immediate closure of all basic education institutions from Tuesday 2 until Wednesday, August 10 to ensure that preparations and conduct of upcoming elections is carried out seamlessly,” Prof Magoha said in a statement.

"Schools and parents are advised to ensure that learners from all basic education institutions proceed on their half-term break effective Tuesday, August 2, 2022, and resume on Thursday, August 11, 2022."

In addition, reports reveal that following consultation with other agencies, President Uhuru Kenyatta was advised to close the schools so that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) could adequately prepare for the elections.

If the original closing deadline was retained, the IEBC would have been left with only three days to prepare for the elections. During the election week, many schools are used as polling and tallying stations, and the commission had asked for more time for the electoral officials to get acclimatised to the site.

Usually, election dates have fallen during school holidays but this year has been different owing to a congested school calendar aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic that led to schools losing two terms in 2020.

Nonetheless, Kenyan parents raged on social media, accusing the government of making such an abrupt decision that has made many of them rush against time to make arrangements for their children, particularly in boarding schools, to travel back home.

Others decried that they were forced to raise fares all of a sudden and others lamented that schools would be forced to throw away fresh supplies they had budgeted for in line with the constrained period.

“Does George Magoha understand the kind of chaos that this directive is going to cause? Knee-jerk reactions to situations that need planning.

"What is the urgency to shut down schools tomorrow? Elections are not an emergency! They are in the Constitution!” Glady Sash, a Twitter user, wrote.

Some schools also had students getting ready to sit for their exams before breaking for mid-term before those plans were thrown in limbo by the change of closing dates.

The early closure will potentially affect the contact time teachers will have with learners and coverage of the curriculum. This will, however, be dependent on mainly the outcome of the presidential vote, and according to the law, the IEBC must declare the results of the presidential election by Tuesday, August 15, the week after the election process.

A Kenyan casting their vote in the 2017 general elections. /FILE

This means that the reopening date Magoha set for Thursday, August 11 may not happen as this is just two days after voting day and the tallying of votes will be ongoing. Many parents in addition will be reluctant to send their children back to school without a definitive winner.

Under the reorganised calendar, the second term has 10 weeks of learning and is meant to end on September 16, 2022, but more disruption threatens to consume class time and affect the candidate classes. The third and last term of the crash programme is scheduled to run from September 26 to November 25, after which national examinations will commence.

The 2022 academic year consists of four national exams; the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE),  Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), and the Grade Three and Six exams under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC). The calendar is different from the usual calendars given that it includes the CBC exams.

KCPE exams will be undertaken between November 28 and December 1, while KCSE will commence between December 1 and 23. 

The Grade Six exam will be done between November 28-30, an exam which has already seen 1.27 million candidates registered to sit the first exam under the new curriculum which will see them join junior secondary schools. However, the entire calendar will be dependent on a series of events that may occur following the August 9 elections.