Healthy Learning

The Healthy Learning Programme was handed over to the Ministry of Education in May 2013. In the final stage before the handover Healthy Learning schools ‘adopted’ their Neighbours.

In 2012, the programme expanded from its 30 ‘model’ schools to 164 schools, through a low cost strategy. Sixty highly motivated teachers, parents of the model schools and district education officers, enroled as ‘Healthy Learning Champions’. They successfully coached and shared their experiences with nearby primary schools. Already after a few months, the effect was visible in changes in the environment of these ‘adopted schools’: many planted trees and flowers, new school gardens, didactic paintings on walls etc.

Many schools attracted support from parents and local organisations for small projects. It demonstrates that schools can effectively become Healthy Learning schools without programme grants. But more importantly, through these school-based initiatives children are learning new skills on hygiene, environment, taking responsibility, etc.

This part of the VVOB The multi-year programme of VVOB in Kenya (2008-2013) pays attention to the link between the quality of learning and the health status of children in primary schools. We focus on elementary insights and skills such as washing hands before eating, visiting toilets rather than the bushes, preparing nutritious meals at school and at home, keeping the environment clean,...

Healthy Learning is active in 30 'model' schools. Schools in eight different arid and semi-arid districts are enroled. The schools and the districts are responsible for the financial management, using the existing systems of the Ministry of Education. The initial budgets are relatively small, but the programme creates opportunities to learn valuable lessons.

Healthy Learning stimulates collaboration between schools, other ministries (such as health, water, agriculture, livestock...) and non-governmental organisations. The Ministry of Education, Healthy Learning team, World Food Programme and Unicef regularly exchange experiences. We all learn from each other and this will lead to adopting more appropriate approaches.

The school is responsible

Each school is offered the opportunity to start its own project to improve the health of the pupils and to make learning practical and more relevant. This can be done, directly, through initiatives such as growing their own vegetables or, indirectly, through income generating activities. At the end of 2008, we received a variety of proposals: to build a water tank or a new toilet; to keep chicken, steers or bees; to develop a vegetable garden; to plant trees,… The whole school and the parents are involved in all steps of the project that offers opportunities for learning (e.g. weighing, measuring, calculating volumes, using water carefully, how do tomatoes grow?).

It is encouraging to notice that at the end of the year, several people involved in Healthy Learning have already experienced changes. Staff at the ministry headquarters say that they are working more systematically and are preparing their activities better. Heads of school and members of school committees who participated in training, already initiated healthy learning activities at school and at home. A certain, stimulating, rivalry is growing between the participating districts. District staff will make two 'study visits' per year to exchange ideas and experiences.