Looming shortage of manpower over prolonged closure of universities and colleges

Students leaving university premises

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to the near-total closure of schools, universities, and colleges. Most governments decided to temporarily close educational institutions in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

On Friday, during the Coronavirus presidential address, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the suspension of all physically learning across the country with only candidates proceeding with their national examinations and proceeding of online classes.

This is the second time schools are being closed following an increase in the number of positive cases, with the country experiencing a third wave of the virus, the closure of the education sector has not been warmly received after a long stay at home in 2020.

Wilson Sossion, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary-General has addressed the issue of school reopening as earlier stated in May.

Speaking during an interview with a local TV station, the nominated MP said that the government should reconsider the prolonged closure to avoid learner's being vulnerable to negative social influences due to idleness.

"We hope by May 9 all learners should be able to go back to school. Imagine a situation of another prolonged stay, we will not receive students but some form of other citizens and that by then all teachers would have been vaccinated,” argued Sossion.

With various tertiary institutions already having issued their memo for suspension of face-to-face learning, a majority expressed their disappointment on the directive from the head of state.

"As the government of Kenya takes measures to contain the deadly 3rd wave of Covid-19, I can't help but sympathize with students in our public universities. Just when will they complete their studies?" Said Dr. Masibo Lumala a senior lecturer at Moi University.

With little effort incurred to invest in the ICTs in universities, this makes it even harder for the continuation of learning. A huge portion of learners cannot fully get in for daily online classes due to disparities in the cost of data and inadequate supply of electricity in rural areas and those from disadvantaged families.

"The government never took into account the need to strengthen ICT in our universities in the face of the pandemic. So no online teaching and learning are feasible in the future for thousands of undergraduates and postgraduates in our universities. The consequences are that until when we will be able to contain this virus and have face-to-face classes, the students will not be able to complete their studies on time," he explained.

Consequently, with not only be a hiccup for students only, but the job sector is also affected. While students are still at home. Many companies depend on the input of attachees and interns who give a helping hand in the attainment of service delivery and goal achievements. A clear indication of a looming human resources shortage.

"The impact of this will not only affect them individually but employees too. There will be a shortage of manpower in the coming days, including lack of doctors and nurses in our hospitals." Added Dr. Masibo.

An additional academic year in 2020 has flipped the lives of many students with others stuck in one year for nearly two years. A number opting to quit school and further their personal lives.

"I was to complete my studies in December last year, but everything was disrupted, I didn't go for my attachment, just completed my industrial attachment with Radio Safari on Friday; was to report for the final year this coming April. I have to wait till an unknown date. This move is hurting." Said Ibrahim Mokoit an incoming fourth year at Maasai Mara University.

" I have been in 2nd year since 2019 September. There was a strike in 2019, we reported back in January last year to finish the first semester, unfortunately, we couldn't complete it after suspension of classes. Just about to complete the second semester with exams scheduled 5th of April classes suspended with the certainty of resuming not clear. This is discouraging with a large percentage of completion in suspense." Said Farida Mulongo a 2nd-year student at Moi University Main campus.

Now fully involved in photography to earn a living and keeping himself distracted from the pressure from society. It is not without challenges, many social events have been canceled and very few. The majority of the events were taken online.

" I now have to find something to be doing to avoid the negative impact of the youths in the society. We all know an idle mind is the workshop of the devil. It was all evident after the 'long holiday', I run my photography line Mokoit Photography based in Kitale but mobile with where there is an opportunity to work, " said Ibrahim.

See also: University student hacked to death in Eldoret, fellow students riot

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