As you are aware, people worldwide have been impacted by COVID-19. In both Kenya and Tanzania all schools were ordered closed on March 18 and have remained closed in order to prevent the spread of the virus. All students, whether boarding or living at home, were sent home with instructions they should study during the closure of schools.
In Kenya the government indicated that learners should undertake online learning via TV, radio, computer, and mobile phone, the government produced a timetable and online work that is supposed to be covered by students at home. While this may be possible in urban areas, in reality all families where CHES operates do not have access to these devices. In addition, electricity is not available in the homes of most CHES students and the cost of any internet is prohibitive. CHES provides textbooks to our girls so they do have materials from which to study.
The Kenyan Ministry of Education decided at the beginning of June that schools will not reopen until at least September 2020. The Education Minister stated, “When schools open, the syllabus will start from where it stopped, therefore those who did not have the benefit of e-learning will catch up. The process will be all-inclusive.” In addition, it is proposed that national examinations scheduled for November be taken in February 2021.
On March 17 the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Tanzania. The next day, all schools were closed and all students, including those housed at the Sara Williams Hostel, were sent home. There was a short time for teacher-student consultation and so study plans were established. However, with no access to online learning, any monitoring or support from teachers is not possible. All Tanzanian CHES girls have textbooks and, hopefully, will have taken their books home with them but finding time or a place to study while living at home and being expected to contribute to the welfare of their family is a challenge for our Tanzanian girls.
The Tanzanian government called all Form 6 students back to their schools on June 1 and they will write their National examinations starting June 29th. Their ability to proceed to university in September is dependent on their final. We have a large number of CHES girls who are in this situation.
A date has been set for the return of Tanzanian CHES students in Forms 1 – 5. All students will return to class on June 29 and students will finish their 1st term on August 31. They will immediately commence their 2nd term and classes will not end until December 18. Schools will be adding 2 hours more each day to compensate for the lost months of studies – this means that school will be in session for 9 – 10 hours daily with only 2 short breaks for food and tea. As the annual tutorials and workshops cannot be held, it will be a real struggle for all Tanzanian CHES students academically this year.
Due to these changes to the school year, CHES directors are particularly concerned for Form 4 students as they are scheduled to write their final exams in December and, based on the results, will or will not move on to further studies. Tanzanian students in Form 2 also write national examinations and if they do not reach a certain standard, the government does not let them continue into Form 3 (or even repeat Form 2).
We are hoping the government examinations and also the selection committees that select the students to move into the next level of their education will take into consideration the lengthy interruption of instruction for this year’s students.