Life in Kawese during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Since the global outbreak of the coronavirus crisis in March 2020, life across Kenya has been affected similarly as in countries across Africa. When the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Kenya during late March, restrictions included a nationwide curfew. This was imposed across the country from March 27, limiting movement from 07:00 PM to 05:00 AM.
Schools have also been significantly affected. Our school, St. Patrick’s Kawese, like institutions across the country, was closed until October 2020. To ensure the safety of students and staff, strong hygiene measures have been implemented, some of which have been a challenge at the school. The provision of clean water for hand washing, a key defence against the disease, is a challenge when the majority of Kenyan households do not have access to running water. Basic utilities such as soap can be extremely difficult to afford for Kenyans.
Culturally, it is also important to consider that the people of Kawese are very sociable. People greet each other with handshakes and hugs and spend much of their time in groups for meals, ceremonies and celebrations.
The people of Kawese do not have access to a stable income or state-led supports to supplement their earnings during a pandemic. Subsistence farming is main source of livelihoods for the village. Faced with a night-time curfew and restricted movements through lockdown, the people’s capacity to make a living, and tend to their crops are significantly curtailed.
While in Ireland, many schools moved to online learning, internet access is widely unavailable in Rural Kenya. Many families do not have the devices to take part in remote schooling. Nevertheless, a more accessible approach was adopted to provide alternatives for ongoing curriculum delivery through radio broadcasting.
The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Kenya Broadcasting Company, broadcasted educational radio programs in English for around five hours per day from Monday to Friday. The programs provided lessons in English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Science, Hygiene and Nutrition and Civic Education.
At St Patrick’s Kawese, the Kenyan Child Foundation continued to provide the breakfast club and nutrition programme for the students so their health and immunity was protected during the pandemic. In October 2020, a partial reopening for the Standard 4 and Standard 8 grades was rolled out, including in St Patrick’s Kawese. The students in these grades are preparing for state examinations. Schools have now opened fully for all students and grades since January 2021.
Children in these grades are following strong hygiene protocols, including handwashing and wearing masks while at school. Seating arrangements have also been revised, with children being spread out across a range of classrooms to ensure social distancing is maximised indoors.
This is a great welcome change for the people of Kawese and the teaching staff of the school. While Kenya faces a range of structural challenges to education, the pleasant climate allows students to be taught outdoors, which greatly minimises the spread of coronavirus. The children of the village are pleased to return to St Patrick’s Kawese. The Kenyan Child Foundation wishes all students and staff a safe and happy school year.