Schools across the country reopened on Thursday to a year and new term packed with various activities among them the launch of the new curriculum and reporting of Form One students.
Early Childhood and Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang – in a circular dated January 2 to all regional, county and sub-county directors – ordered all field officers to resume duty to oversee the reopening of schools.
“You need to ensure that the learning institutions in your areas of work are safe and secure and that learning is going on uninterrupted,” he said.
He asked the county directors to liaise with respective county commissioners to ensure individuals who attempt to disrupt learning are dealt with in accordance with the law.
On Thursday, parents and learners were busy preparing themselves for the opening of schools.
Bookshops and uniform retailers were filled to capacity as parents ensured their children had what they needed before they report to school.
The Education ministry in December pushed the opening date of schools from Wednesday to Thursday.
On Wednesday, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the ministry was ready for the opening of schools.
As the new term begins, county directors are also expected to oversee the rollout of the Competence-Based Curriculum that is expected to replace the 8-4-4 system.
On Thursday, the Kenya National of Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) met following a court order compelling the two parties to negotiate.
In Migori County, teachers reported for the first day of the school term following court orders that barred the looming strike that had been called by Knut.
However, schools registered low class attendance as many learners failed to turn up.
Migori Knut executive secretary Caleb Opondi said teachers decided to obey the court which barred teachers from going on strike.
In Kisumu, there was a low turn out of pupils, especially in rural areas where the parents preferred to keep their children at home and release them on Monday next week.
Ayaro primary in Kisumu East Constituency, with a population of 420 pupils, only recorded a turnout of 100 pupils, with no pupils reporting in grade one and only nine in grade two.
However, schools in urban areas, such as Migosi primary, had close to full attendance and learning commenced on Thursday.
Optimistic parents in Mombasa County expressed their joy as the ministry began rolling out the CBC in public schools across the country.
“I am here at Ganjoni Primary School for my child’s admission. The curriculum is good because parents will be involved in their children’s learning,” Ms Miriam Mukuhi, a parent of a grade one pupil, said.
Ganjoni headteacher Nthiga Alfred said grade one admission at the school was at 100 percent.
In Tana River County, most schools were almost empty, while in others, pupils reported to school as late as 11am.
Some of the learners said they thought the teachers strike was on, and so chose to stay at home to wait for further directions.
Meanwhile, Tana River Knut secretary Michael Babwoya asked teachers in the county to report to school following the suspension of the strike by court.
Knut national executive council member for coast region Dan Oloo told journalists in Mombasa that they welcomed the court’s decision on the strike, but said if their demands are not met the strike would go on.
In Nyeri, Murang’a and Meru counties showed that teachers were at their work stations by 8am and were attending to pupils.
At DEB Meru in North Imenti, headteacher Judith Ntumbari said only one teacher, who is on maternity leave, was away while at least 80 percent of pupils were present.
Muranga South Knut executive secretary John Njata said he ordered teachers to report to school to see whether TSC will comply with the court directive and head back to the negotiations table.
Parents in the North Rift flocked to bookshops and uniform outlets in Eldoret Town to buy various items for their children.
At Central and Uasin Gishu primary, the same low student turnout was witnessed with some parents going to explain their children’s absence.
The situation was the same at MCK Kaaga Primary School where headteacher Lewis Ibaya was busy admitting new pupils while other teachers distributed textbooks to pupils.
“All the teachers have reported and are working as usual,” he said. The situation was the same in schools across the county.
Most of the teachers who sought anonymity said they were not ready to go on strike since the industrial action did not address issues that concern teachers who are not in management.
“Delocalisation is not an issue that concerns us, if they were talking about AON, we would join in,” a teacher in Imenti South said.
But local Knut officials put on a brave face, saying teachers reported to work due to the court order.
Meru Central Knut Executive Caxton Miungi teachers were ready to hold demonstrations.
“We were ready for the strike and had put in place a full brigade; but after the court ruling we decided to honour the court. We have told the teachers to report to work and parents to take their children to school,” he said.
Mr Miungi said six Knut officials under his branch had been transferred while more had been delocalised in Meru North.
Teachers in Murang’a have reported back to school following the court directive.
Muranga South Knut Branch Executive Secretary John Njata said: “We want TSC to go back to the negotiations table and that’s why we adhered to the court’s directive to halt the strike.”
On her part, Technology Primary School headteacher Beatrice Ng’ang’a said their concern was the students and that they could not have absconded school because they wanted to assist pupils.
“Our interests are aligned with that of the child and we follow orders from our employer who happens to be TSC,” she said.