Crisis management is an art that Magoha should learn

 Crisis management is an art that Magoha should learn

Recently, a section of top education officials in Kenya issued edicts barring the media from covering the reopening of schools. The press, the official directed, would require clearance from authorities before visiting any school. This, the official line went, would prevent spread of Corona Virus. Hmmm. How smart.

See, when schools reopened in January after a long hiatus, it was all a fiasco. The press carried sorry stories of children learning outside, sitting on grass or dust, some on muddy grounds. Social media was not amused and called out the government. Out of desperation, and in the usual narrow manner of dealing with a crisis, official thought the solution would be to bar the media. How misguided!

Oftentimes, policymakers ignore crisis management during strategy formulation and implementation.

When crisis management and communication is poorly handled, it can result to serious harm, losses and other damage to key stakeholders.   

When children resumed schools, it was clear all was not well.

The requirement to maintain 1.5-metre distance between one pupil and the next has been the sector’s major challenge due to overcrowding in most schools.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education Prof George Magoha and the education sector fraternity has not been impressed by video and pictures showing how ill prepared some schools have been since they re-opened on January 4, 2021.  

The fumble and mumble were a clear indication that the ministry was unprepared for reopening.

Undeniably, there are about 20 million students, teachers and support staff going back to schools across the country. However, the threat at hand is not visible to the mighty men and women at Jogoo House because all schools operate at almost the same wave length with abundance of resources.

But the reality is that so many institutions of learning, 60 percent of whom are located in urban centres, are ill equipped to manage the re-opening conditions required of them,  after being closed from March last year. Secondly, clean running water, soap and social-distance is a nightmare for many schools.

Added to the fact that 39,000 students from over 330 private schools are out in the streets or at home have beeen advised by the Government to join public institutions that have already surpassed the recommended pupil-per-teacher ratio. This adds more strain to the schools, teachers, students, guardians and parents.

The main threat is the potential damage this crisis can inflict on our children and the education sector in general.

It is prudent to stop digging when one finds himself in a deep hole. The first tactic is to stop digging! But when the Ministry of Education finds itself in a similar ditch, it doesn’t stop digging.

Threatening, censoring the media fraternity or blocking access to various schools to obtain information will not achieve any meaningful objective to seal the truth for the government as it only resembles an Ostrich that buries its head in the sand to run away from reality when they are scared or threatened.

The ministry should learn the useful art of crisis management and communication. Threats and decrees are not part of it.

The writer is a communications and strategy advisor  


Francis Ochieng

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