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What a difference Child-Friendly Schools make!

© UNICEF Kenya/2009/D'Elbee
Students from Ayany Primary School in Nairobi learn through the school's wall murrals (talking walls). This child-centred approach to learning encourages participation and interaction amongst students

By Daisy Serem

NAKURU, KENYA, 13 February 2012: Just three years ago, the low enrolment of girls at Gilwadzi Friends Primary School in Western Kenya was worrying, with only four girls out of every 10 students. Girls’ education was not a priority for the community and many out-of-school girls chose to marry early or work as casual labourers.

It was then that the school’s head teacher, Josephat  Otiende, took  a Child Friendly School (CFS) course, conducted by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education. Mr Otiende was taken through the Child-Friendly School concept, with the training focusing on how to make classes inclusive and child-friendly, how to establish a safe and protective school, promoting equity and equality, promoting health and nutrition and how to create linkages with the community and to forge partnerships.

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.

 “I have seen a great change in our school ever since we adopted child-friendly practices,” he says. “We have greatly improved on gender parity because in the past the ratio was six boys to four girls but now we have 235 boys in the school and 228 girls. This is something I am very proud of. Our academic performance (too) reflects our positive changes.”

Lead by example

This transformation was realized by setting role models for young girls to emulate. Mr. Otiende invited two female District Officers from the region to talk to pupils and their parents on the benefits of education and how they too can succeed. Alumni who went on to high school and university were also involved in motivational talks for the girls and many of those who were out of school felt inspired to pursue their education.  They in turn became an inspiration to others.

The school’s rate of transition to secondary school has since improved, from a measly 35 per cent to 78 per cent. In addition, the students and teachers have worked together to create a clean and safe environment for study, one of the core elements of the Child-Friendly School Concept.“When we were trained, head teachers learnt that all students can be accommodated under one roof regardless of their diverse backgrounds, beliefs, gender, and so forth.”

Mr Otiende was among head teachers who shared their success stories of the impact of Child-Friendly Schools on learning during a recent forum convened by the Kenya Primary School Head teachers Association (KEPSHA). Impressive reports were presented from all corners of the country. The head teachers also talked about the challenges they have faced in implementing the concept.

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.

“When we were trained, head teachers learnt that all students can be accommodated under one roof regardless of their diverse backgrounds, beliefs, gender, and so forth,” says school head teacher, Ms. Winfred Sila. “This has contributed to the good performance.”

© UNICEF Kenya/2012/Serem
Students from Nairobi Primary School elect their student leaders as part of student participation in school governance.

Wholesome development

The 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.





Head Teachers Comments on CFS

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