Kenya partially reopens schools, six months after COVID closed them
By Maggie Fick NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan schoolchildren in grades four, eight and 12 returned to class on Monday, ending a months-long closure of all educational institutions in the country designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many nations have grappled with how to reopen schools safely amid the pandemic, but in Kenya, where public and private schools were shut after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in March, the closures have been among the longest in Africa.
By Maggie Fick
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan schoolchildren in grades four, eight and 12 returned to class on Monday, ending a months-long closure of all educational institutions in the country designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus .
Many nations have grappled with how to reopen schools safely amid the pandemic, but in Kenya, where public and private schools were shut after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in March, the closures have been among the longest in Africa.
The three levels going back to school are all preparing for standardized exams that were postponed from November to March.
The government will decide later whether all students can return, Education Minister George Magoha said at a Nairobi primary school, where he accepted a donation of 1 million face masks from a Kenyan bank.
"Procurement processes are not complete for masks," said the minister. "As we prepare to open more schools, we are going to need more masks." He asked companies to donate supplies instead of cash due to corruption in government procurement.
The minister said children should return to school even if they fear they have fallen behind during the months at home.
"No parent should be ashamed to bring their child to school," he said.
More than 17 million Kenyan students have missed six months of school, the United Nations children's agency said, leading to other social problems.
"We are seeing large numbers of reported violence against children, child marriage, child pregnancy, and child labour," said Marilyn Hoar, UNICEF's education chief in Kenya. Some 1.6 million children rely on school meals that stopped in March, she added.
Many families do not have the devices and internet access that enable children to take part in remote schooling.
Like much of Africa, Kenya's COVID-19 outbreak remains relatively mild - 766 deaths and just over 41,500 cases. Although testing is limited, hospitals have not been overwhelmed. Masks are mandatory in public.
In East Africa, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda have not yet reopened schools but plan to this month or in November. All schools in Southern Africa have partially or fully reopened and in Central and West Africa, just one in three countries have reopened schools, according to UNICEF.
Lilian Sambu, 38, said she was relieved to see that every child at her eighth grader's school in Nairobi was wearing a mask. They filed into classrooms after staff took their temperatures.
"My son is safe and I am happy he is back at school because at home he was very idle," she told Reuters after dropping her son Victor at Our Lady of Mercy Primary public school in the Kenyan capital's South B neighbourhood.
Her five children are used to wearing masks, she said.
(Reporting By Maggie Fick; Additional reporting by Thomas Mukoya; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Mike Collett-White)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.