Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) on Wednesday sharply criticized a directive from the ministry of education on access to public schools by journalists. The union called the directive as “regrettable”.
On Tuesday, Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) for Education Zack Kinuthia said journalists will only be allowed in schools with permission from the Ministry of Education.
In its statement, Mr Eric Oduor, KUJ Secretary-General said that the directive was prompted by the expose by various media houses on the dire and pitiful state of public schools as children resume learning amidst the ravaging pandemic of COVID-19.
The Union called upon the Ministry to ensure that journalists are treated fairly and state power is not used against critical reporting by the media.
“We view this measure as an arbitrary attempt by the ministry to control the narrative on the state of public schools during this pandemic. It is regrettable that the ministry in a democratic government can resort to gagging the media so as to hide the truth and escape accountability,” said the Union’s boss.
“The measure must be condemned for its backwardness and conflict with the right of Kenyans to know the truth about the education sector. In light of the above, we demand that the directive be rescinded with immediate effect, failure to which we shall seek redress from the court,” he added.
However, the CAS remains adamant that “If Press want to cover events within schools, clearance be obtained.”
Let me be clearer to the Members of Public about what I said in Mombasa. To facilitate safe Reopening and safety of our Learners, unauthorized access to schools is banned. This include Press. If Press want to cover events within schools, clearance be obtained. So to all people.
— Zack Kìnùthia. (@SonoftheSoilOne) January 6, 2021
According to The Standard, the decision to ban media from schools was made during a high-level stakeholders’ meeting on Sunday.
The meeting was chaired by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i with Cabinet Secretaries George Magoha (Education), Joe Mucheru (ICT), Mutahi Kagwe (Health), James Macharia (Transport) in attendance.
Others include representatives from the Council of Governors (COG), chief administrative secretaries, principal secretaries, senior government officials and representatives of public and private schools.
However, the Union stresses that “It is important to emphasize that the importance of the role of journalists has been appreciated hence their categorisation as essential services providers, during this pandemic.”
“In fact, it is as a result of exposure of the needy situation in the schools visited by journalists that well-wishers have stepped in to make countless life-changing interventions to the situation of children across the country.
It is not understood what this extra layer of approvals involving the entire hierarchy of the Ministry of Education is intended to achieve other than concealing the true picture of the state of the education sector,” said the Union.