Kenya - 'Healty Learning' in Primary Schools

Kenya - Healty Learning in Primary Schools
Title: 
Healthy Learning Programme
Location: 
Districts Kajiado Central, Kajiado North, Kathiani, Laikipia Central, Laikipia East, Machakos, Narok North, Samburu, Isinya
Timing: 
2008 - 2013
Budget: 
Total 2008 - 2013: €1,258,545 (realised 2008 - 2010: €667,589 – planned 2011 - 2013: €590,956)
Donor: 
DGD
Focus: 
Primary education, Nutrition, Health, Farming techniques, Environment

Challenge

The Kenyan government considers education and training as one of the most important instruments to achieve economic growth. As a consequence, the education sector is receiving a large budget that is increasing yearly. The government wished to increase access to education for children and, therefore introduced Free Primary and Free (Day) Secondary Education. However, there remain large challenges, including: shortage of and poorly maintained classrooms, shortage of teachers, and a high pupil-to-teacher ratio.

Guaranteeing that all children have access to quality education is one of the main targets of the Ministry of Education. Good health, nutrition and meals at school are crucial in attempting to reach this goal. Healthy children are, after all, better pupils and important change agents in their communities. The Ministry provides dry ingredients for meals to primary schools in poor and dry areas of the country in order to attract pupils and to reduce the number of drop-outs from poor families. The Healthy Learning programme wants to take it one step further, by focusing on developing knowledge, skills and attitudes related to health, good nutrition and the environment in general.

Goal

The programme, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, aims to develop and implement sustainable strategies for an integrated approach of Healthy Learning in primary education. This approach pays special attention to the poorest and most vulnerable children in arid and semi-arid areas.

The ultimate aim of the programme is that schools in underdeveloped regions apply multidisciplinary methods in order to make their pupils develop skills on better nutrition and health that also have positive consequences for both their families and their communities.

Partners

The Healthy Learning programme is a cooperation between VVOB Kenya, the Ministry of Education, more specifically the School Health, Nutrition and Meals Unit (our strategic partner); and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

The programme is imbedded in the sector plan for education (KESSP: Kenya Education Sector Support Programme). As part of the investment programme 'School Health, Nutrition and Meals', Healthy Learning uses an integrated approach in order to organise learning activities on food, health and environment at school.

Approach

The programme emphasises the connection between the quality of learning experiences and the health status of children who attend primary school. The programme particularly focuses on healthy feeding patterns, hygiene, farming techniques and environment to achieve better learning processes.

First of all, the capacity of the staff of the Ministry of Education is strengthened at national level. The programme focuses on coordinating, harmonising, advising and supporting Healthy Learning initiatives in the KESSP investment programme ‘School Health, Nutrition and Meals’ and complements other initiatives such as the national deworming and the school feeding programmes.

Secondly, the programme works at the school level. 30 ‘model schools’ in eight districts are supported through training, learning materials and funds to start up activities related to Healthy Learning. Initiatives such as hand washing facilities, school garden, tree nursery, keeping chickens or goats, etc. are excellent opportunities for learning. It is important that life skills related to better nutrition and health are integrated in the school activities. The ‘model schools’ start ‘projects’ with three possible objectives in mind: 1) to provide tools for new, more practical ways of instruction and learning 2) to supplement school feeding and 3) (in some schools only) income generation.

In order to achieve the goals, district officers of various Ministries (Education, Agriculture, Water, Health and others) and non-governmental organisations are involved. They support the schools with advice, additional means (when available) and they assist with monitoring and evaluation. To promote Healthy Learning beyond the pilot schools, the programme is preparing a 'Healthy Learning Teacher’s Guide'. The 30 schools will support sharing of lessons learned and upscaling of the programme by adopting neighbouring schools and mentoring them to start their own Healthy Learning programme. In addition to this, systems are being set up that focus on information exchange, communication and coordination.

We are also developing partnerships and looking for resources to expand the programme and cover more schools.

Some results achieved

  • The School Health Nutrition & Meals Unit (SHN&M Unit) has a Healthy Learning Information entre containing over 300 reference works (with technical information on topics such as school gardens, school feeding, water collection, the environment, but also on school management and administration).
  • As a consequence of a stakeholders’ workshop, the SHN&M Unit set up a committee for technical advice and partner coordination, which meets regularly.
  • 30 ‘Model schools’ in eight semi-arid and arid districts have implemented their approved activity plan for Healthy Learning. These schools are regularly monitored and supported by officers from different levels (zonal, district, national). After a basic training, each school could submit Healthy Learning project proposals for a budget of max. € 2,500.
  • Trainings have been organised on the concept and the aspects of progress of Healthy Learning in the schools and districts for a delegation from all model schools (from each school, the headmaster, two teachers and a member of the school committee took part). Education Officers, School Feeding Programme Officers, Quality Assurance Officers and Line Ministry Officers of the model districts participated in feedback and training workshops with field visits. They also participated in an ICT course that has considerably improved the communication among some officers.
  • To stimulate healthy learning, pupils and teachers could take part in an exchange programme.
  • The acquired hardware (cameras, computers, projectors and printers) are regularly used and support the programme. This improves the information exchange between districts, schools and the national team.
  • Vulnerable children in 30 primary schools in arid and semi-arid areas have a higher awareness on matters such as nutrition, health, hygiene, etc. and learn better.
  • A database was developed to process the different monitoring and technical reports on the schools. These reports supply useful information on the Healthy Learning programme in the schools and districts.
  • The ‘Guide on Healthy Learning’ for teachers has been developed.
  • Through collaboration with ICRAF more than 16,000 copies of the practical manual ‘Planting trees and gardens for life’ (in English and Kiswahili) have been made available for primary schools in Kenya.