The pandemic is not over, yet somehow it feels like we are turning the corner in the US. In Kenya, the effect of COVID-19 was more severe economically and educationally than in public health. Through February, Kenya reported a total of 1,866 deaths from COVID-19. This is about ⅓ the deaths reported in Minnesota despite the fact that Kenya has about 43 million people vs Minnesota’s 5.64 million.
Our team in Kenya believes that economic life is returning to normal in Nairobi, though there is still a ban on large gatherings and the curfew has been extended by 60 days. We stopped providing families food packets through our Food from Friends program in January with no reports of undue suffering. It will take time for the economy to recover ground, but things seem to be coming back steadily.
Ngong Road Children’s Foundation staff, working with our schools have done their best to keep students engaged without in-person education, but nonetheless, students lost ground. There are numerous reports in the country of “indiscipline” among high school students with lower test scores and challenges as students return to the structure of regular education.
The Kenyan government decided last fall that all schools would reopen for in-person education in January 2021. Normally, the academic year is the calendar year and children attend school for three terms. The intention is to squeeze in a fourth school term in 2021 and again in 2022 to make up for the two lost terms in 2020. This has important implications for our program:
- For two years, school fees will be about 25% higher. School fees are our biggest annual expense.
- We will not hold camp in 2021 or 2022. The student’s favorite activity of the year will be missed until August 2023 when camp is hoped to resume.
- We have scheduled Life Skills training for the April breaks. This training is an essential part of our high school program and has contributed significantly to student success.
Our team is handling other changes:
- Case Managers continue family visits/check-ins by phone and are beginning in-person visits at many schools.
- Authorities still prohibit large gatherings like the Saturday Program.
- The school now issues masks as part of the students’ uniform.
- Our staff operates in a hybrid fashion. They are taking turns coming into the office and working remotely due to social distancing requirements.
Kenya has received 1 million doses of vaccines for administering to healthcare workers, the elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Experts believe receiving adequate vaccine supplies for the entire adult population will be the biggest challenge to eradicating COVID in Kenya. President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke to the nation on March 12 about the implications of a ‘third wave’ of COVID in Kenya, extending restrictions on large gatherings, the curfew, and other limitations. This COVID wave in Kenya seems to be predominantly the South African variant of the virus.
Nevertheless, Kenyans persist. Students are back in school and families are working hard to regain ground lost in 2020. We are doing all we can to support their efforts with your help. Thank you as we all work together to support our students’ dreams to transform their lives through education.