I wanted to share an awesome recent achievement from the Child.org team, the creation of our brand new School Health Training Guide. It's a hefty 136 page book that's designed to help our HealthStart schools to encourage peer-to-peer learning and create a culture of health and safety in their school.
Cherio had the idea for the guide when she was working closely with our Health Clubs at HealthStart schools in Kisumu. At Kenyan schools, it's national policy to create a school Health Club - a group of pupils who meet and take responsibility for creating a safe and healthy environment for all pupils.
In HealthStart schools, the Health Club work hard and take practical steps to improve their school - they clean toilets, refill water stations, ensure provision of hand washing facilities. But we also encourage them to learn about and promote healthy behaviour, and to champion the voices of their fellow pupils to school management. This new guide, Cherio envisaged, would be designed to support and encourage this kind of activity.
Creating a comprehensive guide like this was a big project for the team. It was particularly lovely for our UK and Nairobi offices to work so closely together on a creative project: Cherio and the programming team in Nairobi were drafting content for the book, and here in London, I was working on the writing style and structure, while Clare designed activities, proofed everything and sourced a monumental amount of photographs from our library to illustrate the book. We were working with designer Sam Walter, who had to create an entirely new visual style for the guide - this was the first time Child.org had ever actually had to design something for children to use and read!
What's in the guide?
At all points in the guide there are information sections to read out to a group or class, paired with activities to encourage the children to engage in games, exercises and active discussions around the topic they are learning about.
The guide is divided into three sections. The first helps the school to form their Health Club and teaches children about leadership, avocacy and good governance. The second section gives a comprehensive overview of school health, based on the priorities of Kenya's national policy. The third section of the guide teaches children specifically about sexual health and relationships.
These are some of my favourite learning topics and section titles from the guide, just to give you an idea of how comprehensive it is!
- How, and why, should pupils have a say in the running of your school?
- Life Skills: Decision Making. A six step approach to help you make good decisions, large and small.
- How to influence and communicate with people, without bullying them
- Children with special needs and disabilities: how can your school do more to be accessible for everyone?
- The difference between clean and dirty water, and how to make water safe
- Why you should wash your hands
- Nutrition and the value of eating a balanced diet
- Prevention of diseases including malaria, cholera, and pneumonia
- The male and female reproductive systems, and how they work
- Menstruation, and why it's important for both boys and girls to learn about it
- What to expect from puberty
- Prevention and effects of HIV/AIDs
- Healthy and unhealthy relationships: how to recognise when a relationship is unhealthy
Many of the topics covered in the book are very similar to those we would learn about in the UK. But there are some stark differences that reminded me of the very different problems children are facing in these schools: from "the signs and symptons of malnutrition" to "living positively with HIV".
Our HealthStart schools received the guide around the start of this year. In the gallery below are some photographs from Ayucha primary school, on the day Cherio visited all 25 of our HealthStart schools to give out the books.
Cherio visited Thurbie primary recently, and asked if they were finding the guide useful. She was pleased to see that it was already being used by the school, and the school health teacher, Linet, had this to say:
Providing a comprehensive school health programme like HealthStart is about so much more than the standard interventions that you might expect us to fund in schools, like deworming tablets or sanitary towels. It's about arming the school with the knowledge and structures they need to create their own improvements, long after Child.org have gone. Our new School Health Guide is a great example of this kind of work, and I'm very proud to have worked on it.