Being a professor, an administrator and a surgeon looked like the best combination of skills for Professor George Albert Omore Magoha to lead the troubled Ministry of Education in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet.
A man who had been the Vice Chancellor for the University of Nairobi for ten years, and leading the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) for three years was more than enough for President Kenyatta.
Considered to be a no-nonsense cabinet secretary, it was expected that he would transform the education sector in Kenya by offering an alternative leadership.
One and half years since he was appointed the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kenyans can now judge him on the work he has done, the decisions he has made and the communications he has made.
First, for a man who desperately mentions and praises his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, Magoha shows how weak and indecisive he is. No Kenyan is concerned about the President or how they relate, all they want from him is service delivery and the best policies. Instead, he is all over the media with praises for the Head of State. If a junior staff keeps on praising his boss, it is a show of how incompetence, and shows that he can only impress his boss through words and not works.
Since the first case of Covid-19 was announced, the CS has been the most inconsistent, issuing communications that contradict his previous communications.
In July, Prof Magoha announced that schools would reopen in January 2020, saying that chances of reopening in 2020 was impossible. He even said that this year’s school calendar has been declared null and void due to Covid-19.
At that time, he said that schools would reopen only when the numbers reduced consistently for 14 days. It was a good recommendation from the Professor.
“In consultation with Ministry of Health we have agreed schools to reopen when daily Covid-19 cases reduce consistently for 14 days. Social and physical distancing is the most critical factor in ensuring safety of learners,” the CS said.
In August, the CS changed tune and indicated that schools could reopen before 2021 due to reduced numbers. The reduction of Covid-19 numbers at that time was not due to reduced infection rates, but was associated to reduced testing and contact tracing.
Well, that is not the biggest issue. The closure of schools was to enable institutionalisation of preventive measures in schools, since it would be hard to completely do away with the virus.
Instead of always focusing on reopening dates, Prof Magoha should be focusing on helping schools put in place relevant structures that would help make sure that learners are safe. Very few schools have such structures in place, so far.
According to guidelines released by the government last week, institutions will be required to develop policies and procedures suitable in their own environment to enable smooth reopening of the institution. This in itself is a recipe for confusion and trouble in schools. Most schools have been crippled moneywise, since they do not have funds (which they get through fees payments). This means that the schools may have done little or nothing in preparation for reopening.
Over the weekend, it emerged that the Covid-19 Education Response Committee had recommended October 19 as the official date for reopening. Seemingly, the Ministry of Education has already adopted the dates, and in four weeks time, learners will be back to school.
Teachers have also been ordered to go back to school in one weeks time.
Early this month, the government announced that it had set aside Ksh1.9 billion for specialised desks for both primary and secondary schools. The desks should be ready in less than four weeks.
For over six months, the government knew that the Covid-19 pandemic was here to stay, but never made preparations.
On September 10, the CS said reopening would reopen in January 2021, insisting that nothing has changed. Ten days later, he has changed tune.
“The government’s position on the reopening of schools, middle-level colleges, and universities has not changed. When the government closed down the schools after the first case of Covid-19 was reported it was announced that the reopening of the schools would be January 2021,” he said on September 10.