“Children’s health, safety comes first”: Kenyan Bishop to Parents on Reopening Schools

Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru, Chairman of the Commission for Education and Religious Education of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB)

The Bishop at the helm of Education at the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has sought to calm parents who are anxious about the education of their children after weeks of indefinite school closure amid COVID-19 restrictions and urged them to prioritize the “health and safety” of their children.

“We understand the anxiety that parents, especially, those with candidates may have regarding their children’s prolonged absence from school. But dear parents, let us not forget that our children’s health and safety comes first,” the Chairman of KCCB’s Commission for Education and Religious Education, Bishop Paul Njiru Kariuki said on Sunday, May 11.

“Indeed, we would like our children to go back to school at the earliest opportunity,” Bishop Kariuki who was speaking at Holy Family Minor Basilica, Nairobi during a televised Holy Mass further said and advised the parents, “Let us wait for directives from those managing the situation and only take our children to school when it will be safe for them and for the academic and support staff in our institutions.”

Bishop Kariuki who is the Local Ordinary of Embu diocese, Eastern Kenya urged parents to take advantage of the children being at home to “strengthen family bonds, to pray together, reflect, share and have fun together.”

“In particular, I wish to remind parents that their homes are the first schools; indeed, it is at home that the earliest lessons in life are planted and nurtured; It is at home that virtues are cultivated; it is at home that valuable lessons about the value and dignity of work are learned; it is at home that family values that help us become responsible citizens are inculcated,” Bishop Kariuki emphasized.

“Our children are in their primordial school; the real school,” the 57-year-old Kenyan Bishop said.

With some children spending a lot of time on the Internet, the Bishop reminded parents that now more than ever before, they “have a responsibility of training their children to be responsible digital citizens.”

Addressing the plight of the “many families who are not able to access e-learning materials, TVs or Radio,” Bishop Kariuki encouraged children in this situation to have “positively memorable” moments by using the time to “to learn through storytelling and reading, completing assignments and revising school work.”

Referencing the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, the Bishop said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the closure of all educational institutions in the country on March 15, following the confirmation of two additional COVID-19 cases, two days after the first case had been confirmed.

With this year’s national examinations scheduled toward the end of the year, the Ministry of Education has been considering allowing Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates to go back to school to prepare for their final examinations as the government continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation.

Appearing before Kenya’s Education parliamentary committee on Wednesday, May 6 to explain the impact of the pandemic on the education sector, the Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof. George Magoha and his Principal Secretary, Belio Kipsang revealed that the ministry was also considering postponing the national examinations, should the country report spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Kenya has recorded at least 700 COVID-19 cases and 33 related deaths.

On Sunday, May 10, the country reported 32 recoveries in a period of 24 hours, the highest number in a single day since the first case was reported March 12. There have been at least 251 recoveries from the disease. 

“There are a number of people who have been cured of the COVID-19. We appeal to all of us not to stigmatize them and welcome them to our families and communities,” Bishop Kariuki urged and added, “We also appeal to us to accept being tested because it is for our wellbeing.”

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
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