Update from the Field: Adjusting to Pandemic Life in Kenya

It is sixteen months since we had the first nationwide lockdown in Kenya due to COVID-19. If you would have asked me how long this pandemic would last for, I would have told you just until August, but when August came I could tell I was very wrong and now, I am not so sure.

On June 16 2021, The Interior Cabinet Secretary announced that the government would introduce containment measures to deal with movement and social activities in a bid to reduce the COVID-19 surge in Western Kenya. This included Homabay County where I currently reside and I’ve been closely monitoring the projects in schools in Suba North Constituency.

If there is anything I am learning during this pandemic is how much Kenyans can change to suit their environment and also how lacking our health sector is in terms of facilities, human resources and above all innovation. However, the most recent containment measures come with a curfew that bans all movement and social activities after 7pm.

In Mbita town and in most schools, seeing how people interact and take measures regarding social distancing and sanitization has been most intriguing. For example, the wearing of masks with the government saying it’s mandatory, the people here have interpreted it as something to be done appropriately to avoid being arrested by the police. When it comes to public transport, social distancing only applies when there is a different traffic police team at the usual check-points. If this is the case you are still hurdled together in the probox until you are almost near the check-point when the driver would stop and hail a boda boda to get you beyond the check point where you’ll wait to board the vehicle again. They say “we just have to pass the check-point.”

When schools resumed in October last year, the government was strict in checking up on schools to see that they had sanitizers, pupils were wearing masks the right way, seated at a distance from each other and that schools had hand-washing stations. Sixteen months down the line and we are in the last week of 2020 academic calendar and most schools have stopped using the thermo-guns to check and record the temperatures of visitors and closely monitoring the sanitation protocols. They are swamped with a curriculum that needs to be covered, an overwhelming population of pupils with lacking infrastructure and frankly speaking, no teacher wants to run around making sure over three hundred pupils are wearing masks and socially distancing.

Schools here close by the 16th July 2021 and resume on the 26th July 2021 and with the containment measures still in place, I hope that when they transition into the next class and schools (for those joining secondary and university) we would have taken this pandemic seriously and practiced effective mask wearing, sanitizing of hands and socially distancing to further reduce chances of contracting or spreading the virus. I also hope that we’d have more people vaccinated


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