We learned late Friday afternoon that due to a significant escalation in the rate of COVID infections, especially in Nairobi, the President of Kenya has announced containment measures. Nairobi county and four adjacent counties have been declared to be a “red zone” and movement into and out of this area has been prohibited as of midnight on Friday.
Included among the measures being announced are: reimposition of the dusk-to-dawn curfew, absolutely no gatherings of groups of people for any reason, all in-person education is being suspended and all public and private sector employees are encouraged to work from home. In other words, Nairobi is on lockdown. News reports from Kenya indicate that the South Africa variant, which is apparently more contagious, is the primary source of the recent surge in infections. We have also heard reports that all ICU beds in Nairobi are full. Our team in Kenya had an emergency meeting by Zoom on Saturday to discuss key implications (see Q&A below).
We will keep you updated on the rapidly evolving situation in Kenya. Please be aware that if you are expecting a response to recent correspondence, this situation may slow our ability to get students to write emails in Kenya. This situation highlights the challenges faced as our world copes with this truly global pandemic.
|Here are the key implications of this lockdown to students:|
Q: Will students remain in school for in-person education?
A: No. Children have been in school since January 2 but have now been sent home. The only exception is that students who have just finished high school and are sitting for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) will complete their exams in April. Students who are attending a boarding school outside of the five counties have been given two days to proceed to their homes. We are supporting that with bus fare and by making contact with their schools.
Q. We had many extra activities scheduled for students during their brief April holidays: Life Skills training, Sexual & Reproductive Health training and Drug & Substance Awareness training. Will those training programs happen?
A: No. All of those special training programs will have to be rolled out sometime in the future. However, the case managers will use a bulk SMS process to both disseminate information on Sexual & Reproductive Health to students and to sensitize parents / guardians to emerging issues affecting students now home from school (e.g. substance abuse, teen pregnancy, etc.)
Q: Are students in post-secondary programs affected by this lockdown.
A: Yes. All in-person instruction has been suspended. Our staff will follow up with every institution to understand their plans. When possible, we will loan post-secondary students a laptop if online education is proceeding.
Q: How will the students get enough food to eat?
A: We had planned a school holiday lunch program and will seek county government approval to proceed by offering a packed lunch to students. If that fails, we will have to develop an alternative plan. We have a food aid budget to provide food packets for 27 needy families per month in 2021. This program may have to be expanded depending on how long this lockdown continues.
Q: How will you keep in touch with students and their families?
A: As we did during the 2020 lockdowns, our case managers will contact all students by phone and will get an update on their situation from parents or guardians. The case managers will encourage closer scrutiny of students in an effort to keep them on track while they are home.
Q: How will the Ngong Road Children’s Foundation staff operate?
A: The staff will continue its work-from-home rotation and will continue to follow guidelines related to mask wearing, social distancing, and cleaning. The staff are being encouraged to get a vaccine and have been provided with a letter to show they are frontline workers. Vaccine availability in Kenya is limited, but some members of our team have already been vaccinated.