Students at Mwea Brethren primary school in Kenya who resumed on Monday for the first time since March after the government imposed a shutdown of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were surprised to find out their classrooms had been converted into chicken coops by its manager.
Speaking to Nation, the manager of the Kirinyaga County-based school, Beatrice Maina, said she and her husband were left with no resort but to enter poultry farming to make ends meet and also help settle a $4,600 bank loan as they were no longer able to generate revenue from the school due to the 7-month closure.
“We had to think of another way to make money so that we don’t suffer,” Maina said.
Though the government has finally given the green light for schools in the East African country to re-open, pupils at Mwea Brethren primary school will have to share their classrooms with the thousands of birds for the mean time as they are yet to mature in order to be sold.
“We had to remove some of the chickens from one of the classrooms to accommodate the Grade Four children who were the first to arrive in school to resume learning,” Maina, who also revealed she and her husband had to sell one their cars to raise funds to start their poultry project, said.
“It will take time to phase out the chickens because they have to mature and be sold,” she added.
An inconveniencing situation the pupils may have to endure until the birds are eventually sold, Maina, however, proposed the government could step in to assist the school with the construction of more facilities.
“We can have another site for the children but we have no money to construct more classes. If the government avails funds, then we are willing to make the pupils comfortable,” Maina told Nation.
The closure of schools in the East African nation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, severely impacted private schools, as about 95% of teachers in those institutions – which are over 300,000 nationwide – had to be placed on unpaid leave by their employers, Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) chief executive, Peter Ndoro, told BBC in August. 133 schools have also permanently closed. Meanwhile, many government school teachers were still on payroll despite the closure.
To help the schools stay afloat and also keep teachers in the job, the KPSA appealed for financial assistance from the Kenyan government in the form of a $65m grant.
“There is need for the government to support private schools because they contribute so significantly to the economy and actually reduce the expenditure of the government on education,” Ndoro said.
At the time of the BBC report, Ndoro said “some of the schools may not be able to survive” if the funds aren’t made readily available on time.