16 June 2014. Nairobi, Kenya.
Between the 13th and 16th of June, history was made in Kenya for children.
UNICEF, in partnership with the Canadian government, Kenyan Ministry of Education, Kenyan Primary Schools Head Teachers Association, hosted 400 elected student representatives (ages 9 to 14) from around the country to come together and elect their first national children’s government – creating a united, and empowered collective voice for children.
Each child expressed their vision for how they, as leaders in their communities and in their schools, can be forces for change for all children in Kenya.
For the first time, children became the architects of education policy in Kenya. Through a child-centered design workshop, each child redefined the concept of child-friendly schools by providing actionable steps to making schools more inclusive, protective, healthy, and equitable for all. Their perspectives were eye-opening.
From 4000 sticky notes of ideas, 185 national priorities were brought to the Children’s Government inaugural parliament session. Through heated debate and insightful discussions, 400 students (acting as members of parliament from their respective counties) voted for their top 10 children’s government priorities in delivering quality education.
On the final day of the conference, the children’s elected Speaker of Parliament presented the top ten priorities to the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of Education. In response, the Cabinet Secretary committed to translating the children’s government priorities into a more child-centered set of education policies:
By empowering children, Kenya is moving beyond ‘Child-Friendly Schools’ and towards a ‘Child-Friendly Education System’.
On June 18th, the National Children’s Government executive officials will present their national priorities to the Kenyan Parliament – thereby fulfilling UNICEF’s role in bringing Kenya’s young people to the decision-making table.
- We must sensitise all of Kenya’s pupils on the need to give love, care and priority in advocating for the needs of fellow pupils with special needs.
- We must provide more classes for both the abled and disabled with both computers and braille machines included.
EQUITY AND EQUALITY
- We must promote peace and love by starting peer counseling and school courts for all pupils across Kenya (a school court is defined as a pupil council who can judge their fellow pupils fairly during times of indiscipline).
- We must promote an end to gender favouritism by giving equal access to equal shares of educational materials for all pupils; both boys and girls.
SAFETY AND PROTECTION
- We must introduce school security clubs overseen by the children’s governments to safeguard all pupils, teachers and school resources throughout the country from those who wish to steal our opportunity to learn.
- We must provide proper fences to be put in place in all schools to reduce drugs and other negative influences from entering into our school compounds and disrupting our learning environment.
HEALTH AND NUTRITION
- We must call upon all pupils to participate in open forums to give education on the importance of proper sanitation and hygiene. We must also talk to parents during parent meetings on the need to give their children balanced diets and support school feeding programmes. And finally, we must have all schools put up posters addressing issues on HIV/AIDS and other diseases that could threaten our future.
- We must ensure that all pupils can eat a balanced diet by giving all schools the equipment needed for planting vegetables and fruits in a school farm.
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS AND LINKAGES
- We must encourage all schools to form a pupils’ disciplinary committee to address pupils’ discipline cases for and by their peers. We must also formulate an appropriate language policy to help our pupils on the command of global languages. Finally, the children’s government officials must talk to pupils on the need to maintain peace within the school and the neighboring community at all times throughout the country.
- We must advocate for all schools that are in need of water to encourage their communities to raise funds to build adequate boreholes for all children so we can have access to safe drinking water for all.
Innovations Focal Point, Eastern and Southern African Regional Office
Education and young people section, Kenyan Country Office