Effect of Cultural Nutritional Practices on the Learning Outcomes among Lower Primary School Pupils in Kwale County, Kenya
Kasingiu, Florence Syombua
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Despite programmes being initiated to improve maternal and new-born health including the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHs), a global programme aimed at enhancing optimal levels of maternal and infant feeding and care in health care facilities, the envisaged results of these programmes have not been satisfactorily achieved in Taru, Kinango Sub-County, Kwale County, Kenya due to several challenges. These challenges include, among others, retrogressive myths and cultural beliefs which contribute to reluctance to adopt good practices through behaviour change in relation to maternal and child nutrition intake. The study was guided by the following main objectives; establish the status of cultural nutritional practices among children in primary schools; determine the influence of cultural nutritional practices on cognitive development; explore the impact of nutritional practices on mastery skills; and establish the role of proper nutritional intake on performance in test. This study was guided by Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy of Needs. The research employed the descriptive survey design which is description of the state of the affairs as it exists and the researcher reports the findings. Questionnaires, interviews schedules and observation schedules were used to collect data. This study targeted a total of 795 respondents comprising of 694 lower primary pupils, 87 teachers and 8 head teachers and 6 health workers from 8 primary schools in Taru Location. Piloting of instruments was done in two different schools to ascertain their reliability and validity. The researcher used both quantitative and qualitative data analysis techniques for this study because both approaches complement each other. The data collected by use of the questionnaires were coded, assigned labels to variables’ categories and fed into the computer. The quantitative data were analysed quantitatively with the aid of Statistical Packages for Social Sciences (SPSS). Frequency tables, bar-graphs and pie charts were employed to present the information. Inferential statistics such as mean and standard deviation were utilized to summarize the relationship between independent and dependent variables. Qualitative data obtained from interview schedule were organized into themes and discussed based on research objectives. Findings revealed that the general nutritional status of the children was below the optimal levels. Malnutrition among pupils in lower primary schools caused an array of psychosocial problems like illness, brain damage, delayed physical growth, delayed development of motor skills and delayed intellectual development. Majority of teachers agreed that children with poor nutritional practices in their classes were not attentive during teaching. Most children who were undernourished recorded lower performance as compared to those who were well fed and had good nutrition status. The study concluded that nutrition status of pre-school children greatly affected their mastery skills, cognitive development and academic performance. The study recommended that school-based feeding programmes should be set up so that they play an important and effective role in improving nutritional status of school going children and hence their performance. The government of Kenya through the Ministry of Basic Education should promote interventions that improve the quality and quantity of school meals.