Learning Environments and Pupils’ Participation in Primary Education in Nairobi Urban Slums
Limboro, Charity Mukiri
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In order to achieve economic sustainability, every country must invest significantly in quality education for boys and girls from the basic levels. Key inputs of quality education include teachers, physical facilities and resources; and gender-sensitive environments that are healthy, safe, and protective. Quality education is an empowering tool through which individuals gain sufficient academic qualifications that can lead to gainful employment or self- employment at a later stage. Such education augments people’s understanding of themselves and the world improves the quality of their lives and leads to wide-ranging social benefits to individuals and society. While learning can take place anywhere, positive learning outcomes commonly pursued by educational systems happen in quality learning environments. In this paper, learning environments are contextualised in terms of physical and psychosocial essentials. The paper examines how learning environments facilitate or obstruct children’s learning thereby contributing to their empowerment or marginalisation. The paper is based on qualitative case studies of four selected primary schools in Nairobi urban slums. A sample of 220 informants including 189 children and 31 adults were interviewed individually or in groups. The study utilised observations, interviews, Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), and mapping methods to collect data. The findings revealed that only two schools had physical elements conducive for girls and boys to learn. Child abuse was rife in the schools; some of the school premises were not only insecure but a health hazard to the boys and girls. The paper also discusses how the home and community contexts were a threat to girls learning. The study concludes that learning environments, to a large extent, were an obstacle to girls’ access, retention and achievement of good learning outcomes that are critical for improving their life chances. The study recommends inclusion of gender responsive pedagogy in teacher coaching and alternative methods of instilling discipline.