Once they’re gone they’re gone forever

December 27, 2016  · BBC News  · Shared with Public


Once they’re gone they’re gone forever. The question is will the plight of such celebrity species open peoples eyes to the reality of our ongoing mass extinction event? Our ecological survival depends upon biodiversity. It isn’t enough to feel sad about it!




New Book: International Research on Education for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood

Just published by Springer


This book offers a perspective on Education for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood (ESDEC) that is far removed from the ‘business as usual’ notion of an extended, predominantly environmental, educational curriculum for preschools. It presents a vision of sustainable development that has relevance to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) from birth to school; it is relevant as much to homes, family support and health settings as it is to educational settings, and is as much concerned with health and wellbeing as with education. The book provides a perspective that is fundamentally embedded in notions of interdependency. It places an emphasis upon the importance of recognising the interdependency of peoples within and between nation states; the ecological interdependencies of the natural world; of humanity and nature; and most significantly the interdependency of adults and children. These emphases have their origins in the grassroots studies included in the ten chapters representing countries from around the world. The book reflects the idea that only global solutions and initiatives are capable of addressing the global challenges of climate change, environmental pollution, and global threats to ecological systems and biodiversity.


Siraj-Blatchford, J., Park, E. and Mogharreban, C. (Eds.) (2016) International Research on Education for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood, Springer

Update on UN Envoy for Global Education

We reported on Gordon Brown being appointed UN Envoy for Global Education in 2012. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have now established Target 4.2 to: ensure that by 2030 “all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education”. Brown is now Chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity and the following extracts are from the preface of this committee’s latest report where Brown argues that securing every child the right to education “is the civil rights struggle of our generation.”

“As we show in this report, education – especially the education of girls – is a catalyst for cutting child and maternal deaths, and lifting people out of poverty. Investing early and sufficiently, including everyone, and leveraging synergies with other sectors is the best way to reap the benefits of education.”

“…we call for new action to ensure that all countries – developing and development partners – are held accountable for meeting their responsibilities to children, and for the United Nations to scrutinize countries’ educational advancement and draw attention to any who are failing to invest and improve.”

Recommendation III of the report on Inclusion suggests that the early years are prioritised; “where social returns are highest” (p10) and the report also recommends:

“…particular investment in early childhood development and in services for adolescent girls, which can deliver strong complementary health and education benefits” (p10)

Education for Sustainable Development and Climate Change

“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):


Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood

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

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

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 mercyomepkenya@gmail.com

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.