Education for Sustainable Development and Climate Change

July 21, 2015 by

“Let us put aside what divides us and overcome narrow self-interest in favor of working together for the common well-being of humanity.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

The Notre Dame Global Adaption Index identifies Kenya as one of the 25 countries most at risk from the global climate changes that are being caused by the excess carbon emissions of economically developed countries. With more economic development people have used more cars and other forms of transport, and the products used in homes and produced in factories have consumed energy which has traditionally been produced from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Historically, economic growth and growth in global carbon emissions have gone hand in hand.

But Kenya needs economic growth for sustainable development , our population needs employment, and our children need better health and education provisions.

The time has now come to break the link between economic growth and the growth in carbon emissions around the world, we need to find alternative energy sources and better ways of living with the natural world and environment. But that isn’t going to be enough for Kenya. The United Nations global plan is referred to as ‘Convergence and Contraction’, where the overall objective is to reduce carbon emissions from the current global average of 5.0 Tonnes per person a year, to 2.0 Tonnes per person by 2050. That means that with a current average Kenyan carbon footprint of about 0.3 tonnes we have significant scope for increases, and with the development of alternative energy sources like the new wind power generation scheme even more can, and is beginning to be done at a national level to help. Our ‘carbon partnership’ between preschools in Kenya and the UK have also been developed to support these changes. As a significant aspect of their Education for Sustainable Development  children in the UK are learning from our good examples of tree planting, recycling materials and wildlife conservation in Kenya. The UK-Kenya preschool partnership supports a fair and equal dialogue and we are also learning from some of best practices of the UK partner preschools. Some of our success stories are also attracting international interest (Siraj-Blatchford and Pramling-Samuelsson, 2014, UNESCO, 2014):


Why my kids never experience nature

March 29, 2015 by

Source: Why my kids never experience nature

Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood

March 6, 2015 by

87% of Kenyans can read. In Zimbabwe more than 90% can read. In the UK, adult literacy is 99%, and in many countries around the world, including Cuba, Finland and Norway adult literacy is very close to 100%. How can we do better?

Where people don’t learn to read there are mostly two reasons:

1. They are not taught

        – that is why less Kenyan woman can read than Kenyan men.

2. They are taught badly

Reading is not just sounding out words

You can’t teach a child to read just by teaching them the letter sounds

 What you need to know if you are to teach children to read:

Information doesn’t just go from the text on the page through the eyes and into the brain. When we read it is a two way process, we use our brains to read. That means motivation is important; we have to want to read, and we have to believe that we can read. When we read we can sometimes use letter sounds to ‘decode’ a word in text. But we use many other important strategies to recognise words in reading. In preschools we need to support children in their use of all of these strategies and not just through teaching them letter sounds.

This is what researchers have found when they studied eye movements in the process of reading. We typically follow the red arrows – we don’t ‘read’ the letter sounds – we don’t even look at each word – we work out what it says as we go along… We look for meaning in the text.


We typically skip over 15% of all content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) and 65% of all function words (prepositions, conjunctions, articles, and pronouns (Paulson and Freeman, 2003).

What is good preschool practice?

Children need to want to read…

  • Read aloud to the children every day, and talk with them about the books.

We need picture story books to read to them so that they learn how much fun reading is.

We need to use information/reference texts with children so that they can see that we continue all our lives to learn through reading

Children need to believe they will be able to read…

  • Children need to see the adults around them reading so that they develop the expectation that they will read as well
  • Provide and refer often to signs showing the names of plants in the environment, classroom resources and the materials things are made from

Children need to hear most of the words used in a text before they read them.

  • We need to talk with children more so that they are introduced to new words and ideas before they find them in print.
  • Engage children in conversations about what is happening in the community and environment around them
  • Listen and respond to what they have to say.

This is why it is always better to teach children to read in their mother tongue (or home) language.

Children should learn to enjoy the sounds of language

  • Introduce them to rhymes – identify words that end with the same sound
  • Enjoy alliteration – when several words begin with the same sound
  • Match sounds – play a game with pictures – which of these words begins with a ‘d’ sound?

Play with the alphabet

  • Use blocks, cards and puzzle games
  • Start with the letters significant to the children – “Look Wambui’s and Wanjiru’s names start with the same letter ‘W’

Support emergent writing

  • Encourage children to scribble and ‘play’ at writing – write with pencils, charcoal, chalk, sticks in the dust
  • Teach the children to form the letters of their name

Notes prepared by Mercy Macharia and Professor John Siraj-Blatchford


Nursery Rhymes and songs

One, two, three, four, five, Once I caught a fish alive, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, Then I let it go again. Why did you let it go? Because it bit my finger so. Which finger did it bite? This little finger on the right.

Ukuti, Ukuti Wa mnazi, Wa mnazi, Ukipata Upepo Watete.. Watete.. Watetemeka..

Namba moja, mbili, Tatu, nne, tano. Hesabuni tena!

Nani mganga Tausi, Kalimanjila – La Lala salama – Ma Mama mzazi – zi Zizi la ng’ombe – mbe Mbele ya nyumba – mba …


  • Fine feathered friends
  • Meenie miney moe
  • Wee Willie Winkie

Make up a meal with the children using alliteration words: “tasty tomatoes”, “leafy lettuce”, “mixed up maize”, “pasty pilau”, “ugly ugali”, “chilli choma”, “sausage stew” and “chapatti chai”. 


Bats conservation and learning through making things

February 15, 2015 by

Nakuru West preschool in Kenya together with their UK partner Sunbeam preschool joined together in an education for sustainable development project on bat conservation and learning through making things. The children learnt about bats by making bat models using recycled materials.

As an introduction to the project, the children at Sunbeams preschool sent a cuddly toy bat to Kenya together with a picture story book about bats.

This was received by Nakuru West children and their teachers:

teachers-bat bat photo

Nakuru West preschool decided to join their partner friends in making bats using locally available materials which included charcoal for black colour, papers for wings, and cardboards from toilet rolls for bats body, sticks, strings, and blunt pins.

Snapshot 3

They also made a makeshift house for the bats.

Snapshot 8

As they carried out the activity, the teachers engaged in a dialogue with the children who learnt how bats cuddle together and hang upside down in their houses during the day as they sleep, and go out during the night to eat mosquitoes and moths. The children said they were happy to learn about the bats and how important they are to their lives. As long as the bats eat mosquitoes children will not get sick together with their siblings who are at home, thus they will always be happy healthy and able to attend school. Children also learnt how good it is for them to make sure they protect the environment and the bat habitats. They learnt a song about the bats, the song had numeracy and they sang counting about how bats went out one day and what would happened to them.

The teachers too were happy to learn more about the bats and decided to work together and to keep reminding the children about the bats. After we carried out the bat making activity each child was given an opportunity to go and put his or her made bat in the makeshift habitat.

Snapshot 9

The children were happy to learn that bats sleep while facing upside down. It was a very interesting activity and the children said they would look to see the bats and see if they are eating mosquitoes.

The teachers also learnt that it is important to make things out of recycled materials for teaching and also ensuring that children are fully engaged in the manipulation of such materials to have a clear view of what it entails.

Reported by Cecilia Wangui.


Affordable, Quality Pre-Primary Education for All

December 14, 2014 by

Kenya_Country team group_Zanzibar

On 24 November 2014, OMEP Kenya contributed to a high level  eastern and southern African regional workshop on National Planning for Quality Affordable Pre-Primary Education in Zanzibar. The four day workshop was organized by UNICEF, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Secretariat, the World Bank, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and it was implemented by Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Cecilia Wangui, our acting president (3rd from the right in this photo of the full Kenya delegation) will be reporting on the event at the AGM to be held on 15th December in Nakuru. For further details see the OMEP Kenya website or contact the secretary

The workshop was opened by Zanzibar’s First Vice President H.E. Seif Sharif Hamad and it was attended by delegates from 14 African countries and experts from all of the major NGOs and agencies working in the region.

The workshop speakers included Professor John Siraj-Blatchford (UK), Professor Robert Serpell (Zambia), Dr Aglaia Zafeirakou (GPE), Sara Poehlman and Bonita Birungi (Save the Children), Najma Rashid, Amina Mwitu and Sultana Karama (Aga Khan Foundation), Alemu Adane (Addis Development Vision) and Argaw Menelik Desta (School Readiness Initiative), Patience Awopegba (UNESCO-IICBA), Francis Chalamanda (Malawi), Amanda Epstein Devercelli and Alexandra Solano Rocha (World Bank).

The workshop concluded with a ‘Call to Action on Quality, Affordable Pre-Primary Education’:

1. To increase access for girls and boys to quality ECCE, including at least one year of free and compulsory pre-primary education, with particular focus on the most marginalized children.

2. To increase international and domestic investment in ECCE for Global Partnership for Education countries.

3. To promote new and innovative partnerships that:
– Leverage investments in ECCE from public and private partners;
– Improve the availability and delivery of quality ECCE services.

4. To strengthen the evidence-base of effective and quality ECCE programming and the development of ECCE indicators that support countries to monitor children’s readiness to learn, the quality of learning environments.

5. To ensure the inclusion of ECCE in the post-2015 development agenda and in the Global Partnership for Education’s next Strategic Plan through:
– The inclusion of a post-2015 target on ECCE, supported by appropriate indicators, under an education post-2015 goal.
– The integration of ECCE as a cross-cutting issue in other post-2015 development goals related to child development.
– The inclusion of ECCE as a Strategic Priority in the Global Partnerships for Education’s 2015-2018 Strategic Plan.

Education for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood Care and Education: A UNESCO Background Paper

July 12, 2014 by

Originally posted on Play...Think...Learn...:

In a recent UNESCO review of the progress that has been made in developing ESD in ECCE Siraj-Blatchford and Pramling-Samuelsson make the following recommendations :

Accelerating the global progress in Redefining Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)

Sustainable ECCE needs to be clearly defined by policy makers around the world to include provisions to ensure child safety, nutrition, hygiene, attachment, stimulation, and communicative interaction from birth to starting school.

Wash in Schools

The pre-primary sector has an essential role to play in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASH). It is the youngest children who suffer the most from inadequate provisions and all pre-primary institutions must be provided with the support they require to provide safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene education to the children in their care as a matter of urgency.


Continued violence is widely recognized as one of the most significant threats to sustainability, and this has…

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OMEP Awards for Equality for Sustainability

July 12, 2014 by

imageMercy Macharia receiving her award at the 2014 World Conference from Professor Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson UNESCO Chair in Education for Sustainable Development

13 countries participated in the 2014 competition, submitting a total of 87projects concerned with:

  • Socio-economic inequality and poverty
  • Special needs and disability
  • Social Injustice
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Indigenous peoplesThe winning entries were:
  • “Children’s ideas about families’ access to food from a perspective of wealth and poverty” – Dr Libby-Lee Hammond, Dr Sandra Hesterman, Dr Marianne Knaus and Mrs Mary Vajda (Australia)
  • Protección de la Madre Tierra” (Protecting Mother Earth) – Jocelyn Uribe and Verónica Romo (Chile)
  • Matarajio’: Gender equality in Kenya” – Mercy Murugi Macharia (Kenya)
  • “All the children of the world” – Jarmila Sobotova (Slovak Republic)

‘Matarajio’ project: Gender equality in Kenya

June 3, 2014 by

This post reports on the UK-Kenya Preschool Partnership project that took place in Cranborne Preschool in Dorset, UK and Ng’ondu Preschool in Njoro, Kenya, and associated with the UN World Day of Social Justice on February 20th. The focus was gender equality and the promotion of positive female role models in the UK and Kenya.

The children in the UK and Kenya learnt about Wangari Maathai a particularly brilliant and successful Kenyan environmental scientist, and this provided a positive role model for the girls, and challenged some stereotypes held by many of the boys. In addition to the Education for sustainable development and social Justice objectives of the project the opportunity was taken to introduce the Kenyan preschool to the use of socio-dramatic play and to some of the emergent literacy practices that are used in most UK preschools.

???????????????????????????????The children in Kenya saw the video of Wangari Maathai on a tablet PC supplied for the project by OMEP UK (See youtube).
Socio-dramatc play is a form of play where always has some imaginary or fantasy element to it, where the children involved take on a particular role that has implicit rules, and where they interact verbally , in role, with each other (Smilansky & Shefatya, 1992). The most common form of socio-dramatic play is related to the family and many preschools around the world include a ‘Home Corner’ area with household props like kitchen equipment, washing machines, dining tables and chairs that are set up to encourage this form of play. Through socio-dramatic play, children learn how to make conversations, how to take turns, ask and answer questions, and to listen. The efforts they make to stay in role supports their development of self-regulation as well. Young children enjoy socio-dramatic play and as they gCran_hospital2row older and more capable some of the play scenario’s that they act out can be very sophisticated.

Children playing in a pretend ‘Shop’ for example may learn a great deal about the economic world and teachers often maximize the opportunities in such play to encourage emergent literacy and numeracy activities. Socio-dramatic play also provides a context for children to develop and practice many important, attitude, skills and behaviours that contribute to their future success in school and life, and one way that teachers have found they can encourage children to explore adult roles is to provide dressing up clothes. This form of play is routine at Cranborne and their classroom currently includes a ‘Hospital corner’ where the children share their experiences and learn thorough their play all about the caring roles of hospital staff.

Girls are currently seriously underachieving in the Kenyan education system and Kenya ranks 107th (of 136 countries) on the Global Gender Gap Index for access to educational attainment (Hausmann, et al 2013). Girls underachieve at every level and they finally make up only 38% of University enrollments. Preschool teachers are predominantly female and they also suffer from discrimination. While primary school teachers are paid by the government, even where preschool classes are attached to primary schools in Kenya, they are funded by parents paying fees. The salaries are below the basic minimum wage recommended by the Ministry of Labour and depend on the total number of children enrolled and the parents’ ability to pay on a weekly basis (Hein and Cassirer, 2010).

It is in the early years that children’s attitudes are first formed, and in many rural African contexts, it is only in the preschool that many girls come into contact with educated women:

“Girls lack positive role models within schools. Research participants told us that the lack of gender balance in teaching staff at secondary schools and in secondary grades…and in management positions across primary and secondary levels means that girls have few female role models”. (PFTH/VSO, 2013).

In telling the children Matthi’s story it was stressed that what she had achieved was especially wonderful because at that time in Kenya women were not expected to tell men what they should do…in fact even in the UK today, women still don’t make up half the members of parliament, so the UK also has to make an effort to make the system fair for everyone. In Kenya there is a now a new law that says more women should be in parliament so the situation is getting better. The children learnt that women in science, in business and in the government in the future will be able to help us decide what to do.

Role Play Cran2sCranborne Preschool in the UK donated some dressing up clothes that would support the girls in their partner preschool develop positive dispositions towards science and and towards strong adult roles for women. Before they parceled the clothes up they tried them out. One of the girls took the role of a builder who had been injured on her work site and another girl acted out the role of a Doctor.

When the clothes arrived in Kenya, the children were shown the photographs of the UK children playing in them and the girls dressed up and played out the same socio-drama for themselves. Many of the other activities that the children in Cranborne enjoyed were also repeated in Ng’ondu. Ng’ondu preschool is poorly equipped with only a few learning materials e.g books, displays and writing materials for the children. There was no play apparatus, toys or props at all. The teacher is responsible for the care and education of the ‘baby’, ’middle’ and ‘top class’. She also cooks for the children to supplement their poor diet, the children always take porridge at break time and rice and cabbage at lunch time every day. There are not enough desks for the children and no mattresses for children to sleep on. The children are therefore forced to sleep directly on the floor and some spread their sweaters to sleep on.


The children in both preschools were told Wangari was born in 1940, that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize in Africa, and that her good deeds will live on to inspire many people. They were told that she encouraged many poor women to plant trees.They were able to plant over 30 million trees in Kenya.  She was later elected as a member of parliament and she served as assistant minister for environment and natural resources. She contributed highly to sustainable development. Wangari died of cancer on 26th September 2011 at age of 71 years. After the lesson many children were motivated and said they will be planting trees and that they will work hard to be like Wangari in future:

‘I’ said “when In grow up I would like to become a doctor because I always desire to live a better life like my dad”

‘S’ said that she would like to become a doctor in future and ‘K’ also said that she would like to become a doctor and be treat patients because he felt bad when he saw her mum suffering when she is sick.

‘M’ said that she would like to become a nurse in future and be taking care of patients in hospitals.

‘P1’ said that he would like to become the president of Kenya and help all the families in poverty.

‘W’ a said ” When I grow up I would like to become a teacher,I would love teaching other children as our teachers does”

At Cranborne the children also learnt about the importance of the world’s forests, the threats to their existence and the heroic work of people like Wangari Maathai in protecting them. The children were given practical activities identifying all the things around them that are made from wood/card/paper etc, and following Wangari’s example in the video, their attention was constantly drawn to the the fact that the animals, plants, trees and people who work in the forest can only make things happen (or grow) very slowly ‘a little bit at a time’. The children quickly came to predict and repeat the answer to questions that they were asked… e.g. “What do you think they would say (e.g. the tree, the forest ranger etc.) if you asked them why they carried on even though they are achieving so little each day?…..The answer was always that they would say: ‘I’m doing the best I can’. So throughout the activities the phrase ‘I’m doing the best I can’ was often repeated and the children were finally shown the video example of Wangari Maathai where she uses the same words. It was emphasised that Wangari achieved so much even though it was only ‘by doing the best she could’ and the children were asked what they thought they could ‘help make happen’ as they grown up by ‘doing the best they can’. The boys were also asked ‘how they could help their sisters do that?

Cran_zoe4Zoe Miles, a forest school educator from a local 20 acre semi natural woodland resource, (Woodlander Holbourne Bashley) visited the children at Cranborne. She brought some of the woodlands indoors with her and helped the teachers focus the children’s attention on the importance of trees, how long they took to grow, and how quickly they could be destroyed. The children made wood ‘cookies’, and ‘woodland crowns’. They also learnt about woodland management and about how Zoe and her colleagues were ‘doing the very best they can’.

The children were able to touch and feel different wood rounds (logs), and bark from Conifer, Oak, Birch, Hornbeam and Ash. The idea was for the children to understand the different properties of wood using their senses of touch, sight and smell. The children were encouraged to draw and personalise their wood cookies with crayons, and to create crowns using woodland materials (leaves, moss, licen, seeds, conifers, branches, bark, buds and cuttings from different trees). They also had the option to make bracelets from woodland material. A Woodland Habitat display board with Wildlife stickers helped to reiterate the importance of woodlands as a habitat for wildlife. The purpose was to start to create an awareness and connection between themselves, wildlife and the environment with the aim to raise an awareness of the importance that we all need to do the ‘best we can’ to protect the worlds woodlands and forests.


Education and citizen science; the missing pieces in the sustainability puzzle, according to article in Science Magazine

June 3, 2014 by

Originally posted on Transformative learning:

Front page of Science Article Front page of Science Article

Two weeks ago a lengthy article on the education in the context of sustainability and climate change appeared in one of the world’s most prominent international newspapers: the International New York Times (see previous blog post about this with a link to the article). Today, May 9th 2014, represents another milestone in the development of education for people and planet: one of the most prominent journals in science ‘Science’ published a paper on the importance of creating synergies between science education and environmental education with the support of Citizen Science.

The article, which I co-authored with Justin Dillon, Bob Stevenson and Michael Brody, is based on the trends emerging from the International Handbook of Environmental Education Research (Stevenson et al, 2013)*. There are a number of lessons to be drawn but essentially we emphasize the importance of:

Connecting biophilia and videophilia: that is…

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Equality for Sustainability: OMEP World Project 2013-14

January 23, 2014 by

OMEP is supporting early childhood practitioners, trainers, researchers and advisors in their practical efforts to empower young children to escape some of the disadvantages that they face due to an accident of birth into poverty, abuse or discrimination. Key Definitions    Investing in Young Children.  For application proformas and resources see: HERE

Growing up in poverty has a profound and lasting impact on the learning and development of young children. Deprivation stunts the normal brain development of young children, and early experiences shape the future cognitive, social, and emotional development of every child. It has been estimated that 200 million children under age 5 in low- and middle-income countries fail to reach their developmental potential (Grantham-McGregor et al, 2007, Sherr et al, 2009, Walker et al, 2011) . Most importantly, the extant research demonstrates that the risk factors and adverse experiences of these young children can be counteracted using evidence-based early interventions (Engel et al, 2007, 2011, Woodhead, 2009, Woodhead et al 2012, 2013).


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