By Emiko Perea
Global Peace Foundation’s Transforming Education Webinars involving countries around the world began even before learning institutions were shut down in many countries around the world to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The webinars—conducted in countries like Paraguay, the Philippines, and Uganda—involved parents, educators, and students in discussions on transforming education by integrating ethics and workplace skills into secondary education. This raises up the character, creativity, and leadership skills of their students to become successful in their careers and live as model citizens.
The 5th webinar in the series for Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Kenya brought stakeholders in education from public and private institutions across the country. The seminar ran under the theme of Re-opening of Schools: Determining the readiness of learning institutions for the reopening, and collaborative efforts by stakeholders in the education ecosystem. The panelists shared their experiences responding to the pandemic and explored new practices and ways to collaborate as they prepared to reopen schools from October.
Similar to previous webinars, panelists discussed the challenges of the coronavirus in education. During the pandemic, more students were dropping out of school. This added more concerns about an increase in teenage pregnancies and early marriages. It was also brought up that teachers who took on other jobs during the pandemic might not want to go back to teaching, which would leave the schools short-staffed. Another concern regarded how schools were going to pay for the protective equipment and sanitizers to keep everyone safe in schools.
However, this seminar also focused on how parents and educators could make the most of the situation despite the newfound stress.
It was clear that the education system had to go through some changes. The panelists discussed potential changes that need to be made to adjust to the current situation. They agreed that they needed to embrace a combination of in-person and online learning for the upcoming school year. Furthermore, the new costs for sanitation and protective equipment could be taken on by various entities, including the government, humanitarian groups, and alumni.
This seminar helped parents, educators, and students make the most of the situation despite the newfound stress. Ms. Phyllis Wanja from the Afyakili Foundation reminded everyone in the discussion to remember to maintain the mental health of the stressed-out students by including life skills in the syllabus. She emphasized the importance of the community understanding cases of depression and suicide to prevent them from happening in schools. She said, “Mental health deserves a healthy mind!”