By Jarius Kyalo – SBM School Head Teacher
After 9 months of silent corridors and empty classrooms, it’s a delight to welcome all our students back to the 2020/2021 school year at SBM school.I hope everyone had a relaxing Christmas and New year holiday with family, friends and loved ones despite the ongoing pandemic. Covid-19 has definitely shaken things up differently as it’s Third term for class 8 and grade 4 and Second Term for Pre-Primary 1&2 and Grades 1,2,3,5, 6 & 7. It is a change that was carefully considered and planned so that we can best serve and save our children. The extensive preparation and planning put into making full school re-opening safe and welcoming is a testament of all SBM staff.

Our aim over the last few days has been to normalise the school day, have students re-acclimatise to the new environment, re-engage positive connections with other students and staff, all of which are essential for successful learning and growth moving forward. This seems to have been a success despite the masks, hand washing , directional flow in corridors and physical distancing. It is really wonderful to see shining eyes peeking over the top of masks as students arrive early each day for the new school year.

At times there may be some communication challenges with masks,regulation challenges with physical distancing and working memory challenges with directional flow in the corridors and regular hand washing.Still, we know that we have things in place to be successful with full school re-opening.

Over the last few days we’ve seen the local media reporting many schools in the Country putting up classes under the trees and in corridors as adequate rooms are not available but at SBM school, we are fortunate to be able to meet the standard guidelines and in many instances, exceed them. We are committed to the safety of our students and staff and we want to share that we are taking the necessary precautions to prevent the introduction and spread of viruses and other germs, and are cleaning off high-contact areas, such as door knobs, tables, desks , keyboards regularly. Minimising interactions over the course of the school day also remain at the top of our list. Our cohort groups and hand washing facilities are working well, our staggered classes and activities and the whole system appear to be effective.

It is also a testament to our students character that everyone has understood and respects the importance of the new protocols to keep everyone safe.We will continue to evaluate our school facilities, teacher-student ratios amongst other factors to ensure continuity of learning on a healthy and safe environment. It is a monumental task that lacks precedent and challenges our ability to continually adjust and recalibrate to a “New Normal” but there is no doubt that we are confident that we have started the new school year positively.

14 years old Emily Deche, a Class 7 student at SBM school is among hundreds of thousands of students who are back in school following the full schools re-opening, “It feels good to be back in school after such a long time” Emily says. “ I was starting to forget some of the things that I had learnt. I feel safer while am here in school because I interact with fewer people and we observe the preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19. Some of the changes I have seen since coming back to school include maintaining physical separation in and outside classrooms and wearing face masks” she says, “ There are hand washing facilities almost everywhere and use of hand sanitisers.”

Children at SBM school were very excited at the first week of school re-opening, many said they would rather stay at school than at home. Although they admit going to school now involves adjusting to many precautionary steps, all the children shared the sentiment that they’re really happy to be back at school. They are eager to rebuild a daily routine of learning while trying to adjust to an unprecedented school year amid Covid-19. Most of the students speak “Mijikenda”- a local native language as their first language and this has caused them to lose track of their English language skills, making it difficult to catch-up in lessons in the new school year. To address this challenge, their teachers and the Languages Department initiated “Literacy Clubs” where students can meet to read and write.

We thank our directors, our trustees and especially the Maher Family for their tremendous support and understanding as we venture forward to re-invent our school designs to optimise learning for our students and refocus our professional development. We appreciate your support more that ever during this difficult times.It is through your support and commitment that we are able to tackle each day with courage. We also extend our thanks and appreciation to all our donors, volunteers and other relevant stakeholders who are understandably anxious about not being able to visit the SBM school, but they understand this is in the best interest of all.

These are exceptional times, here is to staying safe and healthy and having a return to In-person learning. Once again, thank you to everyone involved in making preparations for full school re-opening, the students, teachers and our directors. We are happy to be back. I am going to sign off with a photo of Sherry who has the biggest smile for you all under her mask !!

God bless you all.