Like much of the world, Kenya is currently experiencing a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases. Many healthcare workers have contracted the virus, largely due to an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment. Healthcare facilities, especially in rural areas, are ill-equipped and lack the capacity to effectively respond to the current situation.

An increase in community transmission affects more than just health facilities. Schools in Kenya partially reopened for exam-level students in October and are expected to bring back all students in January. Understandably, school leaders are concerned. Many schools are already overcrowded, which makes social distancing nearly impossible. Schools often lack adequate sanitation (toilets) and handwashing facilities, and many lack a source of clean water.

School leaders also fear the unknown. Testing rates are extremely low in rural areas of Kenya, which means schools aren’t sure what they will face once they fully reopen. Some people don’t know where to go to get tested, while others simply don’t want to test. Many also fear the cost of treatment if they test positive.

Global Partners is working with our partner schools and communities to safely address the challenges they are facing. Instead of holding large community meetings, our staff is collaborating with smaller groups of school and village leaders. Together, we are strategizing about how to best disseminate information and solicit ideas and feedback to ensure that our work remains community-led. We are forging ahead with new school infrastructure projects and are specifically targeting schools with water, sanitation, and hygiene needs. We are installing more handwashing stations than ever before and are providing hygiene training to help schools keep students safe.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has opened our eyes to many aspects of good health and sanitation that we need to prioritize and effectively manage in schools,” says Fred Okeyo, Chair of the Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association. “The challenge with public primary schools is that we need the infrastructure and the facilities but do not have the financial capacity to implement them, so we are grateful for the support for the support we get from Global Partners and even more so at a time such as this.”

We will continue working with our partners to keep schools safe and students learning. The world may have changed, but Global Partners’ commitment to improving public health and education remains the same.