Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Science and Research in Kenya

Published: 2021-02-26

Welcome to 2021! As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, we will use the next few months’ blog posts to hear from a range of IFS community members, in response to the questions:

  • In what specific ways has the COVID-19 pandemic been a setback for science and research in your country? In what ways a leap forward?

  • How has COVID-19 been affecting you?

Dr George Morara Ontumbi, Lecturer, Koitaleel Samoei University College

I am a resident of Eldoret Town, Kenya, where I reside on a fairly spacious homestead in one of the nearby estates. I am a holder of a PhD in Environmental Earth Sciences and have been working for the Government of Kenya for the last ten years as a trainer in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Department until the end of December 2020. In January 2021, I transferred to Koitaleel Samoei University College, a constituent of the University of Nairobi.

As a researcher and academic mentor, I have fewer worries on how to spend the day because my wife and I engage in various activities within our homestead that keep us busy throughout the day. At the same time, I have been able to attend to work-related issues virtually without many hitches, especially during the COVID peak periods. After COVID was declared a national disaster in Kenya in March 2020, normal happenings turned “abnormal” and events took a new direction. Movements into and out of the capital Nairobi were restricted to people providing essential services; curfew hours were introduced; churches were closed and many more stringent measures were put in place.

Because of the COVID “new normal”, interactions between students and lecturers were halted, and lecturers teaching practical sciences would not engage in virtual experiments. Similarly, elderly lecturers who are not technologically-endowed would not engage in virtual classes when the situations demanded. The challenge of computer literacy therefore slowed the pace of academic progression, especially for post-graduate students who did not attend online classes and meetings. This resulted in stagnation of students in their course work and thesis writing and, at the same time, restriction on movements hampered fieldwork. Data collection by scholars and researchers became a problem because of the phobia associated with COVID, especially where it involved questionnaire administration and sample collection using local respondents.

Dr George Morara Ontumbi

Generally, COVID has economically ravaged the country and affected many Kenyans negatively. Through telephone conversations, email exchanges and social media interactions with friends and colleagues all over Kenya, it seems that few sectors have been spared, ranging from agriculture and transport to education, among others. Therefore, the COVID recovery period is not going to be a ride in the park. However, on a positive note, COVID has introduced new norms. Lecturers and students have been inducted into virtual and online meetings. Similarly, universities and tertiary institutions have invested in information technology equipment and capacity-building programs. Therefore, while COVID has brought some drawbacks, I believe the new challenges will be overcome with time and the world will progress. Finally, I believe that international academic and research institutions like IFS will be available to partner with us as we steer the world from the negative effects of the COVID pandemic.

With thanks 

Nighisty Ghezae



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