Learners' perceptions and practices on physical activity: a case of selected regular and integrated schools in Nairobi County, Kenya
Nyaga, Michael Simon
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·A lifestyle that embraces physical activity promotes good health, improved mortality rate, ability to perform personal daily duties with undue strain, enhanced self esteem, improved academic achievement and better late age life. This study explored the perceptions and practices of learners on physical activity. Analysis of the learners' perceptions on the adequacy of physical activity opportunities in schools, their practices in engaging in physical activities, the schools' practices in providing adequate environment for physical activity, learners' constrains in accessing physical activity opportunities in schools and effects of physical activity on academic achievements were the objectives that the study aimed to achieve. The study was modeled along Self-Determination Theory and Ecological Systems Theory. The approach used in this study was mainly qualitative with some limited use of quantitative approach. The study employed a case study methodology to reach an indepth understanding of the subject matter. The study was carried out within Nairobi County targeting a cross-section of socio-economic strata of low, middle and high class. The study targeted class six pupils. Views about learners were also gathered from teachers and parents. Key Informant Interviews, focus group discussions, pedometers, and observations methods were used in collecting the desired data. Validity and reliability were ensured through piloting and triangulation of data sources. Data was coded according to themes derived from the study objectives. Data was analyzed descriptively and thematically. Findings were presented in narratives and simple statistics. The study indicated that learners had interest in PA/PE. In general, schools had limited facilities and equipment for learners use in PA/PE. Teachers engaged learners in academic work during PE and games sessions. Teachers handling LWSN lacked suitable training and skills to teach adapted PE to these groups of learners. The study found out that only 17% of the PE lessons were taught. Boys engaged more in PA than girls. Boys engaged more in PA in school while girls' we more active in the home and neighbourhood environment. Learners from the middle SES background engaged less in PA than those from the lower and upper economic backgrounds. Limited time, inappropriate attire, over attention to academic work, risks of injuries and security were issues that learners perceived to hinder their access to PA. 6 out of 10 (60%) top learners in the class academic ranking were found in the upper third of learners best ranked in PA level. The government through the Ministry of Education should create awareness among parents, teachers, learners and others. stake holders in education on the need for PA and its significance on academic achievement. Through the Ministry of Health parents, teachers and learners should be sensitized on the importance of PA in health promotion. Line ministries in the government should develop deliberate affirmative strategies that create barrier free environments for LWSN opportunities in PA.