Schools for Africa - Stories from the field

14 August 2020

In an early childhood education centre in Nationokar Primary School, located in the host community of Kakuma, Turkana county, excited children look on curiously as their teacher moves about the room instructing them in shapes and numbers while using the learning aids donated by UNICEF, with support from the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Charities. 

Five-year-old Akok, who was born in Kenya of South Sudanese parents, perks up when Gloria, a trainer from Waldorf, draws closer to play with her. Waldorf is an education organization that has been working with UNICEF as its implementing partner to train teachers and parents. Gloria monitors the teachers’ utilization of the learning materials and the progress of the learners. 

“One, two three – our teacher said those are numbers,” Akok chuckles as she organizes coloured blocks in coordination with the numbers. The Kenya Refugees Act guarantees certain rights and responsibilities to all refugees in the country, including the right to access education and to study in a safe space. There are many refugees in Kenya, as it borders several countries prone to conflict and civil war. Consequently, many people flee to Kenya seeking peace and access to basic services. According to the latest statistical summary by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, published in January 2020, there are 491,258 refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya, 193,941 of whom reside in Kakuma. Akok is one of 44,033 children between the ages of 5 and 11 who live in Kakuma.

“Triangle, milima,” five-year-old Peter sings along with his teacher as he uses his hands to demonstrate the shape of a triangle. He giggles as he looks at the other early childhood development (ECD) kits provided by UNICEF and partners, and he quickly distinguishes a triangle from other shapes after visualizing the peak of a mountain. 

In addition to constructing new classrooms with financial aid from LDS, UNICEF and partners have furnished them with age-appropriate chairs and tables. Further, the school has a new gender-specific latrine block and a well-equipped playground. Play is indeed one of the ways in which these children deal with the trauma that many of them have faced while fleeing their home countries.


Teacher Gloria teaching Akok in class
Five-year-old Akok, who was born in Kenya of South Sudanese parents, perks up when Gloria, a trainer from Waldorf, draws closer to play with her. Waldorf is an education organization that has been working with UNICEF as its implementing partner to train teachers and parents.

"I am pleased with the commitment demonstrated by the parents. Some of them even provided their labour when the new classes were being constructed."

James Emuria, Board Member, Nationokar ECD centre in Kakuma

UNICEF and partners strongly support the participation of families and communities in the education process, such as in the Nationokar ECD centre in Kakuma, by establishing a board of
management constituted of parents. As one parent and board member, Ettiene Nijimbere, notes, “We were directed on good management and how to cooperate. We ensure that all children and teachers go to school. Further, we see to it that all facilities
are maintained. Dispute resolution is easier as we were told of the importance of maintaining a cordial relationship with the head teacher and parents and of ensuring that everyone’s grievances are heard. I am also glad that we were informed of the introduction of the Competence Based Curriculum.”

Having fled war in Burundi, Ettiene is confident that his four children are receiving a good education at the Nationokar ECD centre and primary school. “One of my children has greatly improved since joining the school, and I believe one of the reasons is the use of the ECD kits combined with other services that are
helping them to learn better.”James Emuria, another board member, agrees. “I am pleased with the commitment demonstrated by the parents. Some of them even provided their labour when the new classes were being constructed.” Ensuring that teachers are well trained and can handle the children is crucial to the success of the programme, and to this end UNICEF supports teacher training on how to use art, play, and reading activities to support child centred learning. The organization
also supplies teachers with such materials as crayons, puzzles, and modelling clay to facilitate this process.

Early moments matter, greatly, for every child. And early childhood development is about ensuring that children get the right start to life, for which good education, health, and play are essential. Thanks to funding from LDS, children in Kakuma Refugee Camp
and in the host community are getting exactly that.