Child Friendly Schools: Promoting child-centred approaches to learning

Child Friendly Schools: Promoting child-centred approaches to learning

Millions of children in Kenya fail to get an education due to a variety of reasons ranging from; poverty, to disability and gender specific issues. To ensure that schools cater for all irrespective of their unique challenges, the government introduced the Child Friendly Schools programme.

Nairobi’s Murang’a’ Road Primary School, is one such school that employs interactive techniques and technologies to bring every child on board. Situated in Nairobi’s Ngara area, the school offers a comfortable environment for a child to learn.

“Child Friendly Schools are schools where all children are accepted regardless of their age, gender and religious affiliation. Here we take children not as students but as our God given duty to mold and transform”, says Ms Joyce Agik, a teacher at the school and national facilitator for child-friendly training organized by WERK.

Ms Joyce Agik, a proponent of child friendly schools at Muranga Road Primary School

A child-friendly school ensures every child an environment that is physically safe, emotionally secure and psychologically enabling. Teachers are the single most important factor in creating an effective and inclusive classroom and motivating their learners to remain in school

As an implementing partner in the Operation Come to School project funded by Educate a Child through UNICEF and supported by the Government of Kenya, the focus for Women Educational Researchers of Kenya (WERK) is on returning 20,000 out-of-school children in Nairobi County back to the classroom and ensuring that they complete the learning cycle for primary school and transition to secondary school. A total of 350 public primary schools and selected Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training (APBET) institutions are participating in the project covering 8 sub-counties of Nairobi, among them Embakasi, Starehe, Kamukunji, Makadara, Mathare, Kasarani, Westlands and Dagoretti.

As if to drive home and illustrate the point about the factors preventing children from coming to school, a peculiar challenge took place recently that greatly contributed to the depopulation of the learners’ population.   As a result of the glaring absence of a well demarcated perimeter fence and its proximity to Nairobi’s central business district the school was at the centre of a confrontation between the police and city hawkers when some hawkers gained entry into the school compound and took refuge in the classrooms into which police lobbed tear gas. This incident frightened off many parents who withdrew their children leading to a drastic drop in enrolment and the destabilization of the retention rates.

Joyce Agik’s child friendly classroom.

Back in Joyce’s classroom, with a laptop connected to a television set, the children can see and visualize what the teacher is talking about. This eliminates the monotony of writing on the black board for the teacher, allowing her to stay engaged with her learners.  With this methodology of teaching the teacher becomes the facilitator and the children take charge of their learning.

“We use various methodologies because we have to know different learning styles of children. As a teacher if you do not know the learning styles of the children you will not be able to say you have taught them”, she adds.

In most regular schools, teachers are the repository of all knowledge and the learners are expected to take down notes diligently.  This kills creativity in children.  Child-friendly schools encourage a participatory approach.

In her teaching, she attempts to capture every child’s learning needs and style: “I have to incorporate videos and even pictures in my teaching. I not only use my talent to draw but I capture the talents of the learners as well”, says Joyce.

Her classroom walls are plastered with charts and diagrams, the work of the children themselves. They learn how to interact and even teach each other. This boosts the child’s courage, morale and confidence.

Poverty levels makes it difficult for the children to afford certain materials required in the learning process. With scarce resources, they have learnt to use locally available materials.

“Even the challenge of turning simple materials into useful learning tools helps grow the children’s creative and innovative capacities and makes teaching both simple and enjoyable for me”, says Joyce, a smile flashing across her face.

According to the 2009 Kenya Household Population Census (KHPC) an estimated 1.9 million primary school children aged 6-13 years and 2.7 million children aged 14-17 years were out of school.   Some of the barriers and bottlenecks that perpetuate this phenomenon become more pronounced during the period of adolescence, and manifested particularly in the high inequalities witnessed in girls’ access to education and the dropout rates from primary school.

Ms Agik’s students pay full attention to what is being taught

“The students that I teach have been with me since they were in Class Two. They are now in Class Eight. They have mastered my teaching style and I have mastered their learning styles”, she says.

She believes that this group of students will perform well in their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education since their level of confidence is higher than most ordinary children.

A Ray of Hope for Disadvantaged Girls

A Ray of Hope for Disadvantaged Girls

Her voice is barely audible amid the din of shouts and happy shrieks as children chase after each other in a variety of games within an expansive playing field while others noisily rearrange their desks and chairs in their classrooms.

It is closing day for the third term holidays and the there is a steady stream of parents into the school compound to consult with the teachers and pick up their children’s report forms.

Tracy Atieno, 13 years

Atieno is dark-skinned and slender.  She is reserved, almost too shy to speak. Kiswahili is her preferred language, though she understands English and speaks it quite well.

At age 13, in class seven at Rabai Road Primary school in the eastern part of Nairobi, Atieno faces numerous challenges and she clings to her one chance at an education to open the doors to opportunities and a better life.

She wakes up at 5.00 am every morning to be in school by 6.00 am.  She covers the 4-kilometre distance to school on foot and she is always anxious about keeping time.

“During the rainy season it is very difficult to walk through the muddy streets. I arrive in school with mud caked to my shoes and I have to get them clean so that I can at least be comfortable in the classroom,” she says.  Sometimes when the rain soaks through her clothes, books and shoes, it means a long cold day ahead for her. “There is little one can do about it and I have learnt to bear with the situation.”

Generally, the environment in the neighbourhoods that dot Nairobi’s informal settlements is not conducive for pupils like Atieno. Due to congestion in their humble home and constant noise in the neighbourhood, it is difficult to get homework done and to do quiet study.

“I make sure I finish my homework at school so that the interruptions from drunkards who pass near our house yelling are kept at bay. I live with my family in Kiambiu, we are two children living in a temporary one-roomed house.” Atieno explains.

Kiambiu is a sprawling informal settlement in the east of Nairobi. Atieno narrates the ordeal a girl child in the slums must endure. Sexual predators are never far away, putting her and her sibling at risk during the long hours their mother spends away from home. Her single mother, who is a hair stylist, struggles to make ends meet. But Atieno is dedicated to soldiering on in the hope that education will make the difference for her and alter her current circumstances.

She helps her mother with house chores like cooking and fetching water. She has to do them because the mother is usually busy with work at the hair salon.

Atieno has only visited the Nairobi Central Business District once in her lifetime. Although it is barely 8 kilometres away from her house, she just hears the stories told about its attractions. There is no one to take her sight-seeing.

Thanks to UNICEF-funded Operation Come to School project, she received a schoolbag and a kit of essential items including sanitary towels, underwear, soap and body cream as well as exercise books, pens and pencils.  For children like Atieno, these items could mean the difference between being able to stay in school or being confined to their homes for long spells. 

“UNICEF has helped me to stay in school,” adds Atieno.  Although the Kenya government guarantees free primary education, parents are required to contribute to the salaries of some of the non-teaching staff as well as professional teachers that are not registered under the Teachers’ Service Commission.  They also contribute towards the school feeding programme that provides school lunch.

She wants to be a medical doctor one day: “I see many people suffer because they cannot access medical care. They are also too poor. I want to help them ease their pain and suffering when I become a doctor.”

Similarly, Amina Abubakar a class eight pupil shares her experience a few days before taking the 2017 KCPE exams. Aged 14 years, she is from Kiambiu.  Her biggest fear is the dangerous environment she and her family live in.

There are many negative influences, ready traps for the young people of her generation.  But like Atieno, Amina owes her gratitude to UNICEF who came to her rescue and enabled her stay in school.

“My mother sells shoes and my father lives in a different town. They don’t have a lot of money but they try their best,” she says.

A charming Amina believes that through education, she will be able to realise her dream of becoming a neurosurgeon.

Ms. Mary Wangui Mathenge, who is also Amina’s class teacher, says it is important for schools to establish a child friendly environment, safe enough so that when children come to school they feel safe.

“We have a swimming pool in our school which we have secured to avoid accidents and we have a school fence which helps secure the school against intruders. Security is paramount, especially for the pupils that come to school early in the morning,” she adds.  Children are advised to walk in groups when as they navigate their way to school and back. 

She notes that some of her pupils come from backgrounds where they are not well trained on home related issues which sometimes affects their performance.

According to the head teacher at Rabai Road Primary School, Mrs Terry Mbogo, her pupils face too many challenges. She notes with a lot of concern how most parents have neglected their children’s welfare.

“It is a very tricky situation and we are always alert to be able to intervene so that the children are not overwhelmed by their problems,” she adds.  She keeps a stock of sanitary towels in her office to hand out to hand out to needy girls when they are needed. 

“Menstruation is one of the factors that affect school attendance among girls,” she says.

Although the school enrolment rate has increased since the OCTS project rolled out, retention is always a priority for the school management.

“We have raised enrolment from 420 to 775 pupils,” adds Mrs Mbogo, “We are doing well, but we are also concerned about the children that dropped out during the recent electioneering period.”  Many children were sent back to their rural homes when parents left the city to participate in the national elections on August 8th, 2017 and some of them did not return for the start of the third term of school in September.  This situation was worsened by the ensuing deterioration of security county-wide which also affected Nairobi’s informal settlements in the disputed vote and the Supreme Court’s nullification of the Presidential election on September 1st 2017 and a re-run on October 26th.   “Some children may never return,” says Mrs Mbogo.

Even as the pupils prepared for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations, the state of their classrooms tell a sad tale of struggle and survival. The furniture is in a state of dereliction, as are the walls and windows.  The floors are dusty and riddled with pot holes.

However, not far from this state of neglect, a block of newly renovated classrooms adds a freshness to one of Nairobi’s oldest public schools.  Mrs Mbogo is highly appreciative of UNICEF’s support to the OCTS project for the renovations and support to children in vulnerable circumstances, offering them a lifeline and a second chance in life. 

Ms. Mary Wangui Mathenge, a teacher at Rabai Road Primary School

(Photo credit, Robert Kariuki)


In pursuit of our objectives and management of our membership and programmatic elements, WERK is currently undertaking a registration exercise for the pre-qualification of suppliers of goods and services for the year 2019 (ending 31st December, 2019). WERK therefore invites current and previous suppliers of goods, services and consultancies to register by downloading the WERK Prequalification Registration Document and ensuring strict adherence to the requirements stipulated therein for consideration.

  • WERK will register prospective candidates for the supply of goods, services and consultancies from among those who will have submitted their registration documents in accordance with the requirements to undertake the assignment as described herein.
  • Eligible candidates are invited to submit a registration document for the supply of goods and services. The registration documents will be the basis for the registration and eventual invitation to bid for the supply of goods and services on the basis of “as and when” need arises.
  • Eligible candidates may apply for one or more categories of items.
  • Special groups registered under AGPO are encouraged to apply.
  • The candidates must familiarize themselves with the requirements of the registration documents including all attachments.
  • WERK will not be responsible for any costs or expenses incurred by candidates in connection with the preparation or delivery of these registration documents including and costs associated with the preparation of the documents and attachments.
  • The WERK financial policy requires that candidates observe the highest standard of ethics during the prequalification process. In pursuance to this policy, WERK defines for the purpose of this provision, the terms set forth below as follow;
    • ‘Corrupt practice’ means the offering, giving, receiving or soliciting of anything of value to influence the action of an officer in the prequalification process
    • ‘Fraudulent practice’ means a misrepresentation of facts in order to influence the registration process to the detriment of the organization.
    • Will reject an application if it determines that a candidate has engaged in corrupt or fraudulent activities in the prequalification process.
    • Will declare a candidate ineligible for registration if at any time it determines that the candidate has engaged in corrupt or fraudulent practices in competing for or in executing a similar contract.
    • Will have the right to inspect the business premises of the candidate
  • Candidates shall furnish information as described in the registration document
  • Detailed pre-qualification/ registration of suppliers documents may be inspected from the WERK Secretariat offices situated on 1171 Argwings Kodhek Road during working hours (8:00am-1:00pm and 2:00 pm-5:00 pm)
  • Interested firms may obtain registration documents free of charge for all the categories.
  • Completed registration documents in plain sealed envelopes clearly marked registration of Suppliers 2019 indicating the category and item description as below:


ITEM CODE WERK/2018/PQ/­­­­­­­ ____________

REGISTRATION FOR THE SUPPLY /PROVISION OF __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

And be addressed and deposited in the ‘tender box’ at the WERK Secretariat offices so as to be received on or before 1st February, 2019, by 10:00am.

WERK’s physical address is:





Registration documents will be opened immediately after closing time in the presence of bidders or their representatives who choose to attend the opening.