Safety and security in preschools: A challenge in informal settlements
Murungi, Catherine Gakii
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School safety is important in enhancing children’s learning. It is defined as measures put in place by staff, parents, learners and other stakeholders. The measures are meant to minimise risk conditions that may cause accidents, bodily injury as well as emotional and psychological distress. Accidents, if not prevented, can cause disability or death, while emotional and psychological trauma can lead to lack of self-esteem which may result in poor performance in education. Therefore meaningful teaching and learning cannot happen in an environment that is not safe and secure for both learners and staff. This article presents findings of a study conducted in preschools in informal settlements in Nairobi County, Kenya, focusing on safety and security for children in preschools. A mixed methods approach involving concurrent qualitative and quantitative data collection procedures was utilised for the study, conducted in 54 preschools involving 54 head teachers/managers, 78 pre-school teachers and four officers in education in Nairobi City County. Findings revealed that government has endeavoured to come up with guidelines and minimum standards through various policies, but preschools in informal settlements are experiencing a myriad of challenges impacting negatively on children’s learning. Among these are poor infrastructure, lack of play space and play equipment, congested classrooms and school compounds not fenced. In view of the challenges, it is recommended that county government in collaboration with other stakeholders in early childhood should come up with model preschools in informal settlements to create conducive learning environments. There is also a need for frequent inspection of preschools to ensure that safety and security standards are observed and implemented.