May 7 2014, NAIROBI:  What happens when children are asked to lead the development of educational policy? History is made.

Two weeks ago, the UNICEF Kenyan Country Office (Education and Young People) teamed up with the Eastern and South African Regional Office Innovation Team to co-create and co-facilitate a groundbreaking, innovative child-centered design workshop in Nairobi, Kenya for 25 county-wide elected children’s government officials to gain their insight on “What can children do to make their schools child-friendly?”

In collaboration with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), Kenyan Primary Schools Head Teachers Association (KEPSHA), and the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST), UNICEF Kenya Country Office (KCO) and the Regional Office Innovation Team co-led a day-long workshop that introduced a new methodology for participatory co-designing with and for children in quality education.

During the day-long workshop, the Presidents and Deputy Presidents of nine sub-counties and eighteen different schools in Nairobi defined, for the first time, what the global concept, Child-Friendly Schools, means for children. Through a 10-step process, co-developed by UNICEF KCO Education and Young People section and UNICEF Regional Innovations, children were finally put in the driver’s seat for defining and owning child-friendly school indicators.

The 10 Step Process

  1. Draw: Each child President and Deputy President was asked to draw their school.
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. A Children's Government Representative completes the first step of the process and draws her school. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. A Children’s Government Representative completes the first step of the process and draws her school. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
  2. Label: They were asked to label parts of their schools as ‘child-friendly’ (with a smiley face) and ‘not child-friendly’ (with an X) without being told the definition of a child-friendly school.
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Madam Deputy President identifying Child Friendly and Non-Child Friendly areas in her school. Photo Credit: Andy Cunningham
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Madam Deputy President identifying Child Friendly and Non-Child Friendly areas in her school. Photo Credit: Andy Cunningham
  3. Inspect: Each child was asked to become a “School Inspector” and walk around to the other pupils’ drawn schools and role play, asking, “Why parts of the school are child-friendly and why parts of the school are not child-friendly?” Each inspector would take notes to identify ten reasons why particular elements of the schools they were inspecting were child-friendly or not child-friendly.
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Student Inspectors asking questions about the child friendly and non-child friendly areas of their peers' school. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Student Inspectors asking questions about the child friendly and non-child friendly areas of their peers’ school. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Filling out the Inspector Cards. Smiley faces indicated child friendly spaces and Xs were non-child friendly. Photo Credit: Andy Cunningham.
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Filling out the Inspector Cards. Smiley faces indicated child friendly spaces and Xs were non-child friendly. Photo Credit: Andy Cunningham.
  4. Ideation: Each child was asked to write and share on post-it notes responses to the following prompts:
    1.  What activities they could do as children’s governments to improve their school.
    2. What they wanted to stop in their schools in order to improve education and how they would do this.
    3. What they wanted to start in their schools in order to improve education and how they would do this.
    • The walls were covered in incredibly innovative, child-centered, actually doable ideas.
      Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Two thirds of the way through the ideation step and the walls were already covered in ideas. Photo Credit: Andy Cunningham.
      Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Two thirds of the way through the ideation step and the walls were already covered in ideas. Photo Credit: Andy Cunningham.
  5. Promise Bubbles: We were going to have the students relate what they wrote during the ideation stage back to their campaign promises, but since time was running short, we skipped to the next area.
  6. What Adults Think: A presentation of the 5 Kenyan Child Friendly School thematic themes was made to let the children’s government officials listen to what adults thought about child-friendly schools, outlining the national quality education indicators surrounding the themes of: 1) Health and Nutrition; 2) Safety and Protection; 3) Inclusive Classrooms; 4) Equity and Equality; 5) Community Partnerships.
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Students learning about the global Child Friendly Schools Framework. Photo Credit: Andy Cunningham.
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Students learning about the global Child Friendly Schools Framework. Photo Credit: Andy Cunningham.
  7. Clustering: The students were asked to take their post-it note ideas from the Ideation phase and group them into the 5 themes – thereby redefining Child Friendly Schools through children’s perspectives.
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. After finally learning about what Child Friendly Schools mean, the student cluster the ideas from the ideation step into the 5 themes. Phot Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. After finally learning about what Child Friendly Schools mean, the student cluster the ideas from the ideation step into the 5 themes. Phot Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. After a short time, the children had clustered all of the ideas, thereby self-defining what child friendly schools means to them. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. After a short time, the children had clustered all of the ideas, thereby self-defining what child friendly schools means to them. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
  8. Policy Making: Children were then grouped to choose the top 5-10 priority activities to be recommended for each of the 5 themes. These ‘policies’ are the first draft of what will become the first-ever child-centered pocket guide to implementing Child Friendly Schools nationwide.
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Next step: Policy Making,. The students take time read through all of the post-it notes and identify the top priorities for each theme. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. Next step: Policy Making,. The students take time read through all of the post-it notes and identify the top priorities for each theme. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
  9. Parliamentary Presentations: Children delivered parliamentary presentations on the activities that should be implemented across the 5 Child Friendly Schools thematic areas. The presentations were articulate, powerful, and inspiring.
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. After the Policy Making step, each group nominated a representative to present what actions Children's Government could do for each theme. The presentations spurred a lot of animated discussion, and really felt like a parliamentary floor session! Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. After the Policy Making step, each group nominated a representative to present what actions Children’s Government could do for each theme. The presentations spurred a lot of animated discussion, and it really felt like a parliamentary floor session! Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. A President reports back on what activities Children's Government can do to make classrooms more inclusive. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
    Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. A President reports back on what activities Children’s Government can do to make classrooms more inclusive. Photo Credit: Georgia Hill
  10. Resolutions: The ideas presented during the parliamentary stage now serve as the first draft of what will ultimately inform what activities children’s government elected officials can do after they are elected. In the end, children are passing resolutions about what is a child-friendly school; therefore becoming active rather than passive participants in the development and implementation of quality education reforms.

What the children discussed and brainstormed was incredibly inspiring to witness. In fact, the day was such a success that this process is going to be repeated next month with 470 elected student representatives for all 47 counties across Kenya during Kenya’s first-ever National Children’s Government Congress. The final set of indicators that are developed during the workshop will be presented to the Kenyan Government on the day of The African Child in celebration of the 25th Year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2014 State of the World’s Children theme of Innovations and Equity. Furthermore, the final product will be a Child Friendly School Pocket Guide that will be given to all children’s governments across Kenya so kids can monitor the child friendliness of their schools.

Georgia Hill
Innovations Focal Point, Eastern and Southern African Regional Office

Andrew Cunningham
Kenya Country Office, Education and Young People

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