What a difference Child-Friendly Schools make!
By Daisy Serem
When he returned to Western Province, the head teacher decided to put what he had learnt in theory into practice. He trained the school’s teachers on the Child-Friendly School concept and together they began transforming the school.
Kyaume Primary School in Machakos County saw its mean score in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination improve steadily from 229.34 in 2009, to 235.62 in 2010 and 248.34 last year.
Wholesome developmentThe Child-Friendly School concept was introduced in Kenya in 2002 and implemented on a pilot basis by the Ministry of Education, with the support of UNICEF, in 11 districts: Nairobi, Turkana, West Pokot, Kwale, Isiolo, Marsabit, Moyale, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Ijara. In 2010, the ministry rolled out the programme on a national scale.
The concept aims at encouraging child-centred learning by addressing all facets of education, including the environment, issues of equity and equality, and the wholesome development of the child.
“To make our schools truly child-friendly we need to address the child in a holistic manner,” says Elias Noor, UNICEF Education Specialist. ”We must go beyond academics and even recognize head teachers not only for producing impressive KCPE results, but for improving on the thematic areas of CFS, such as creating equity and equality and promoting hygiene and sanitation in schools”.
In Githioro Primary School in Central Kenya, for instance, students and teachers have focused on improving the school’s environment. They have set up a tree nursery and planted trees in the compound, where each student adopts a tree and cares for it. From the sale of seedlings from the tree nursery, the school has been able to sponsor three students to secondary school. In addition, pupils are taking the lessons home by planting trees in their compounds.
Nonetheless there have been some challenges faced in taking on the spirit of a Child Friendly School. Some schools have not been able to create strong linkages with the community and partners, especially in areas where poverty is high. Others are struggling with trying to enhance equity and equality, particularly in trying to attain gender parity and establish disability-friendly schools. The head teachers have however vowed to tackle the challenges head-on.
Creating a safe learning environment
Disaster Risk Reduction is also a critical area that needs to be included when implementing CFS standards in the country. Early response and management of risks and hazards in schools was addressed in the training as head teachers reflected on how to mitigate disasters in their schools.
“In the last two decades, Kenya has been facing rising vulnerability to risks which turns into disasters and hazards,” said Secretary of the Teachers Service Commission, Gabriel Lengoiboni, as the training came to an end. “Schools are predisposed to disasters due to factors like poor discipline and management, bad structures, poor hygiene and natural disasters like floods and drought. As head teachers you have to be at the forefront in averting disasters.’
As the training drew to a close, the head teachers were motivated anew to keep the Child-Friendly Schools mantle burning and put in place measures to ensure schools provide a safe and friendly learning environment for the child.