COVID-19 Risk Mapping: Why School-Level GIS Matters

The plane-mirror view throws a virtual image of bygone headwaters of COVID-19 in Africa, but the real image downstream could turn out to be different especially if we peek at the sorry state of basic schools in deprived environments.

Education Sector Management as a Mirror of Leadership Quality

COVID-19 has dealt the education sector a major blow. As at October 13, 2020, the global case fatality rate was 2.9% — higher than Africa’s 2.4% and Kenya’s 1.9% (up from 1.6% recently). The recovery rates have been increasing, reaching a mean of 75% globally, 80% in Africa, and 75% in Kenya by the same date. With more than 7 million cases already this week, India, as earlier expected and projected in this series as testing rates increased, is now headed to catch up with the USA in COVID-19 cases. The USA has reported more than 8 million cases already, albeit with a lower recovery rate of 65% and worse case fatality rate of 2.7% than India’s 87% and 1.5%, respectively.

The plane-mirror view throws a virtual image displaying the raging headwaters of COVID-19 to be behind Africa already. The real magnitude of the downstream effects of the wavy warrior which is the wily pandemic is, however, still hidden from sight as schools reopen in Africa. Technologically driven mapping of risk levels by location is the periscope needed to visualise the hitherto masked future. Examples of risk mapping from Europe show geographical risk profiles categorised as high, medium or low risk. This transition phase of adventure calls for open-mindedness and a ready willingness among leaders to explore, understand, anticipate, and quickly respond to the emergent scale and character of the novel coronavirus. The finding in the USA of a young person who has been reinfected by COVID-19 to a more severe degree that the first instance is instructive here.

Celebrating the International GIS Day amidst a Pandemic

As the world prepares to celebrate the next annual International GIS Dayon November 18, 2020, few questions could be more compelling than how countries have utilised their key human capital and technology infrastructure to ensure quality leadership and management in the education sector. The data value chain climaxes with real impact. The desired impact has, however, remained elusive for countries that persistently place low value on data and information management. Gaps, duplications, outdatedness, incompatibilities, and fragmentation without harmonised standards have been associated with compromised data integrity and the eventual wastage of resources in environments deprived of precise decision metrics. This is why Taita Taveta University chose this year’s GIS Day theme to be on post-pandemic resilience and impact with GIS-enabled platform services. Distributed reporting from mobile devices nowadays enhance crowdsourcing to generate the citizen science required for participatory and inclusive decisions.

Probing Questions for Kenya as Schools Reopen

Are leaders drawing lessons from the disruptive COVID-19 experience on the priceless value of geographically referenced data and information — if managed well in a Geographic Information System (GIS) to share visual location-based intelligence for calibrating tactical, operational, policy and strategic responses? How many Kenyan counties have an up-to-date and functional GIS database of schools, complete with the key attributes needed to enhance efficiencies and facilitate centralised management while providing location-based intelligence for security and emergency response during the pandemic? Can decision-makers visualise a synoptic view of the status of various schools on a digital map and zoom in at will to get granular details for customised interventions — thereby reducing unnecessarily costly travels? How much value has been added to or derived from the Kenya School Mapping project that the Ministry of Education started way back in 2007? These probing questions come alive as Kenya contends with the challenge of reopening schools across her spatially diverse and vast territory. Quality and up-to-date location-based data and statistics form the bedrock of efficient and effective decision support.

Finally, Kenya reopened basic schools on October 12, 2020, with candidate classes to act as a trial group for learning how things would turn out. The reported daily infection rates have increased, from below 5% before the easing of restrictions on gatherings and curfew hours in the last week of September, to several instances of double digits thereafter. With 41,937 total cases reported on October 13, the simulation model used in this series shows a trend that is already beyond the adjusted optimistic scenario that would have seen Kenya reach below 41,000 cases by November 10, 2020. The actual and model scenarios are shown in the graph.

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Nashon J. Adero

Nashon, a geospatial expert, lecturer and trained policy analyst applies dynamic models to complex adaptive systems. He is a youth mentor on career development and the founder of Impact Borderless Digital.