OMEP Awards for Equality for Sustainability

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

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

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

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).

Sign the Petition

Put early childhood development at the heart of the new post-2015 development framework with targets that promise all children care, support and services which work together for the best start in life.

…We need your support – we need to build alliances to ensure that early childhood development is not just a side issue – it should be right at heart of civil society, our fight for social justice and economic development. We cannot afford to squander the talents of so many of the world’s people.

Sign the petition here: SIGN

Malalamishi kwa Katibu Mkuu wa Umoja wa Mataifa, Ban Ki-Moon pamoja na Mataifa Washiriki
Katibu Mkuu wa Umoja wa Mataifa Ban Ki-Moon na Mataifa Washiriki: Toeni kipaombele kwa maendeleo na ukuaji wa watoto wachanga katika mwongozo mpya wa maendeleo wa miaka baada ya 2015. Wekeni shabaha zinazohakikisha utunzaji wa watoto, ufadhili na huduma zitakazowezesha kuwa kwa mwanzo bora wa maisha.

Malalamishi ya Tessa Jowell, London, Uingereza.

Zidisha athari yako

Zidisha uwezo wa sahihi yako kwa kueneza malalamishi haya na kuwaleta watu unaowajua kutia sahihi pia.
Tunajua kwamba unachangia pakubwa katika maisha ya mtoto kwa kuwekeza katika miaka ya kwanza – kutoka utungajimimba hadi miaka tano ya kwanza. Ithibati kutoka kwa mipango kama Sure Start katika taifa la Uingereza, inayoungwa mkono na kile tunachojua kwa sasa kuhusu ukuaji wa akili ya mtoto, inathibitisha manufaa ya kijamii na kiuchumi ya muda mrefu ya sera hii. Naamini kwamba tuna fursa ya kusambaza manufaa hayo kwa watoto maskini zaidi ulimwenguni.

Julai iliyopita nilizuru nchi ya Malawi pamoja na Mbunge kwa jina Ivan Lewis, ambaye pia ni Waziri asiyeteuliwa kirasmi wa Maendeleo ya Kimataifa wa Uingereza kwa kusudi la kujifunza jinsi mipango ya watoto wachanga inavyoweza kutekelezwa vilivyo katika mataifa yasiyo na rasilimali tulizonazo katika mataifa yaliyostawi, na jinsi mipango hiyo inavyoweza kuwafaidi zaidi watoto wasio na bahati na wanaoishi katika maeneo yaliyotengwa. Ziara hii iliimarisha imani yangu katika kanuni kwamba mtazamo unganifu wa ukuaji wa watoto wachanga utaleta manufaa kamili kwa watoto masikini zaidi pamoja na familia zao.

Tunafanya kazi Uingereza kupitia Kikundi cha wabunge kutoka vyama vyote kilichoundwa na mbunge Andrea Leadsom pamoja na Wabunge kutoka vyama mbalimbali tukilenga kuendeleza mtazamo mseto kuhusu maendeleo na ukuaji wa watoto wachanga. Ikiwa mwongozo mpya wa maendeleo ya miaka baada ya 2015 utakuwa mwongozo wa dhati wa azimio la dunia la ufadhili utakaojumuisha mataifa yanayostawi, yaliyostawi na mataifa yenye mapato ya wastani, tunahitaji kuthibitisha kuwa tunafanya yote tuyawezayo nyumbani ili kupambana na ukosefu wa utoshelevu, umaskini na ukosefu wa nafasi za kujikimu.

Lakini sasa tunahitaji msaada wako – tunahitaji kujenga ushirikiano na mataifa manane tajiri zaidi ulimwenguni (G8) pamoja na mataifa mengine yanayostawi kuhakikisha kwamba maendeleo na ukuaji wa watoto wachanga sio swala la pembeni – linapaswa kuwa swala kuu kwa mashirika ya umma, vita vyetu vya haki ya kijamii na maendeleo ya kiuchumi. Hatuwezi kudidimiza talanta za wengi wa watu wa ulimwengu.

Tusaidie kutafuta uungwaji mkono kwa kusambaza malalamishi haya kwa marafiki zako na wengine wanaoamini kuwa maswala ya watoto yanapaswa kuwa kuu katika mkakati wetu wa maendeleo ya siku zijazo. Ikiwa mwongozo huu ni bora kwa watoto wetu, basi ni bora pia kwa watoto maskini zaidi ulimwenguni. Ndiyo sababu ninaamini sera hii inapaswa kuwa swala kuu katika mwongozo mpya wa miaka baada ya 2015.

OMEP UK-Kenya Preschool Partnerships Update

A World OMEP initiative to develop partnerships between preschools in the global North and the global South was launched in 2012. This project has been initially piloted between preschool in the UK and in Kenya and there have been notable successes:

The biggest challenge for the UK/Kenya preschool partnerships has been communications, cuddly toys were exchanged between most of the 32 preschools but there have been problems with freight (shipping resources), and also sometimes with the relatively high staff turnover in Kenya. OMEP Kenya have therefore decided they want to add another dimension to the project. The proposal is to develop the project further by promoting preschool ‘teacher in training’ partnerships, rather than just relying on institutional pre-school partnerships. They feel that an advantage of this approach will be that the younger generation of preschool teachers in Kenya are more computer literate (many already use e.g. facebook). The Kenyan students (ITE and CPD) also spend a lot of time in the classroom so there will be good opportunities for developing classroom activities together from the start, and it is hoped that the partnerships will continue when they finish training. It is intended that the project will be launched with events focused around the UN World Day of Social Justice on February 20th – the chosen focus is going to be gender equality and the promotion of positive female role models in the UK and Kenya.

The project is at an early stage but you can see what has been done so far at:

Also note:

World Project: Intergenerational Dialogues

OMEP Kenya has signed up to contribute to a World OMEP project this year and they will be encouraging teachers to develop preschool activities that involve the children talking with their grandparents and village elders about:

Where does our food come from?

How has this changed in recent years?

Teachers will be inviting the children’s grandparents into the classroom to tell the children about how their families grew food at home when they were children.

What things were grown? How has this changed?

How do you start a garden, what tools and resources are needed?

We hope that some preschools will be able to develop garden projects where grandparents help the children grow some of their own food. UK partner preschools are also being encouraged to join in and the project has a lot of the potential to to make comparisons between the two communities. The children in Kenya and the UK will also learn about Wangari Maathai.


Itunze arthi vyema; hukupewa na wazazi; bali umekopeshwa na wazao wako

Translation from Swahili: You must treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It is loaned to you by your children.

In October 2012 Njeri, John, Simba and Joshua visited the first twelve UK-Kenya preschool partners. The Kenyan partners are currently being supported by a preschool development project managed and funded by the Salvation Army. The aim of the visits was to introduce each of the preschools to their new ‘partner’ preschool in the South of England. The Kenyan preschools were located in the Eastern and Central Province of Kenya, in the Kibera slum district of Nairobi, and around Nakuru in the Rift Valley.

We collected a series of photographs from each of the Kenyan preschools that showed the Kenyan children taking “Simba” (a cuddly toy Lion) around their preschool and telling him (and us) three things that they really liked about their preschool, and three things that were a problem. “Simba” was  then taken to their English partner preschool and reported (with the help of John and Njeri) to the children ( parents and teachers) on what it was like in the Kenyan partner’s preschool (with the support of the photographs and some video).

Photographs of the English children with Simba have now been sent back to Kenya and each of the English partner preschools is choosing another cuddly toy to send to Kenya with photographs of the children in the UK, showing the new toy and the three things that they are proud of, and those they consider problems to be solved.

 The Kenyan children told Simba they really liked Playing, reading, writing, drawing, eating, toys, their teachers, singing, painting, sleeping, swinging, pets and uniform. Perhaps only with the exception of the high priority placed on eating, sleeping and uniforms, these are also among  the most common things children in the UK like about their preschools.

 When Simba ‘asked’ the Kenyan children about problems in their preschool they talked about the lack of toys and play equipment, books, pencils, and crayons. In many of the settings preschools classroom furniture was non-existent and improvisations included the use of benches, adult tables and chairs and  church pews. But in every preschool that we visited there were impressive  examples of the teachers efforts and  innovation. Every preschool classroom had many wall displays and posters many of which were made from recycled coffee sacks. There were painted seed ‘counters’, and bottle tops for counting and in one preschool even a improvised balance for weighing. A few toys were evident and some of these will have been made by the children’s parents.

These partnerships have significant potential in promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability through ‘carbon partnerships’  where both parties support each other in achieving convergence  in their environmental impact (measured through carbon emissions) to achieve their ‘fair earth share’  within global limits. Preschool communities seeking to reduce their footprint need to look at many different aspectsof lives e.g. their  energy use, their use of transport, food, waste, what they buy, potential for recycling etc.  The partnerships provide a means by which the children, and wider preschool community can compare their situation to those commonly experienced in  Africa.

For more information on the OMEP Preschool Partnerships see:

Gordon Brown is the new UN Envoy for Global Education


Former prime minister Gordon Brown is to become a global education envoy for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Gordon Brown, was the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time the Millennium Development Goals were agreed and provided strong leadership on development at the G8 Summit of the rich nations in 2005. In recent years he has often called for renewed efforts and bitterly complained about the failure of rich nations to honour their pledges. In a meeting of MPs in 2010 he spoke of a “lost decade for development” and when he was asked whether the targets were too ambitious to be realistically met he responded passionately, arguing: “To say that every child should be at school by 2015 is not an ambitious target… but a natural right of individuals. “It is a matter of necessity.”

As Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2004, Gordon Brown argued that:

‘While the nineteenth century was distinguished by the introduction of primary education for all and the twentieth century by the introduction of secondary education for all, so the early part of the twenty first century should be marked by the introduction of pre-school provision for the under fives and childcare available to all’ (Her Majesty’s Treasury, 2004).

He will now have the opportunity to ensure that Pre-school provisions are included in the global Sustainable Development Goals that are set to replace the MDGs after 2015. The evidence for the cost effectiveness of early childhood education is much greater today than it was in 2004. But he may still need reminding of his personal commitment. You can write to him at:

Gordon Brown MP, Carlyle House, Carlyle Road, Kirkcaldy, KY1 1DB. UK

See also:

Picture shows Prime Minister Gordon Brown chats to children and staff at Aughton Early Years Sure Start Centre .