Education, health, and wellness for children are inextricably intertwined. Wellness for Greatness conducted a school needs assessment in 2021 that examined the status of school health and wellness in public primary schools and the extent to which Physical Education is implemented as a preventive measure to non – communicable diseases and physical inactivity in schools in Kenya. The needs assessment also investigated school awareness and knowledge on preventing and managing non-communicable diseases, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and physical inactivity among learners, teachers, administrators, and parents.
The needs assessment was undertaken in 5 of the 47 counties of Kenya, namely Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado, and Turkana. The study targeted 92 respondents who included; 12 heads of institutions, 24 grade three class teachers, 12 grade three parent representatives, 24 grade five class teachers, 12 grade five parent representatives, and one sub-county education field officer from each sub-county – 8 officers.
It was found that only a few schools have school health and wellness clubs or committees even though they are a requirement as stipulated in Kenya School Health Policy. Most schools communicate and provide regular updates through the school newsletters, parent meetings, and one-on-one with individual parents on issues related to all aspects of pupil health (nutrition, physical activity; and chronic health condition; social and emotional well-being).
On Physical Education in schools as a preventive measure for non-communicable diseases, respondents concurred that Physical Education could:
- Help boost immunity and development of physical and mental growth;
- Help treat obesity and strengthen bones;
- Improve the functioning of body organs which will help fight disease;
- Reduces weight, stress, depression which leads to mental fitness, and
- Is a form of entertainment that leads to psychosocial relief in learners
The needs assessment showed that most students do not consistently attend all scheduled PE lessons in schools. On the availability of resources, material, and equipment for the implementation of PE in schools, all respondents concurred that there is a lack of resources and equipment for the implementation of PE in schools.
Findings showed that most respondents were not satisfied with the implementation of physical education. The reasons for lack of satisfaction with the implementation of PE in schools include:
- Age of some teachers of PE is too advanced to be able to deliver effective PE practicum lessons;
- Poor coordination of PE activities;
- Lack of proper and adequate PE resources, equipment and kits for the school;
- Negative attitude towards PE lessons by teachers;
- Most teachers use time dedicated to PE lessons to teach lessons for other subjects that are examinable (since PE is not examinable);
- School infrastructure is not conducive for PE (i.e. no fields or close to traffic congested roads);
- PE teachers need additional professional training in modern PE skills for them to be effective;
- Training is needed for teachers on handling learners with special needs
The following were the recommendations made by the researcher based on the findings of the study:
- There is a need to conduct sensitization and capacity-building forums for teachers, learners, and the school community to create awareness on transmission, prevention, and control of non – communicable and cardiovascular diseases and their impact on pupil performance, retention, and transition, completion, and educational outcomes.
- There is a need to establish school health and wellness clubs, councils, and networks in the management of physical and health education; and involve teachers, learners, school communities, and related stakeholders in campaigns to promote health and physical education in schools.
- There is a need to review and update teacher training and school curricula to include all emerging trends and information of school health education.
- There is a need to develop curriculum support materials and modules that can strengthen the teaching and implementation of PE in primary schools in Kenya.
- There is a need to harmonize and update existing curriculum support materials on nutrition, non-communicable diseases, and physical inactivity.
- There is a need to sensitize the school community, parents, and related stakeholders at all levels on the importance of school feeding programs and nutrition services as a preventive measure to non-communicable diseases and physical inactivity.
- There is a need for sensitization and awareness among learners, teachers, administrators, parents, and educational stakeholders on the significance of physical literacy and values as a preventive measure to non-communicable diseases in schools.
- There is a need to review and incorporate physical education and sport assessment guidelines in the national educational assessment system to strengthen its implementation in schools.
- There is a need to build capacity for teachers and establish a community collaboration system to promote inclusive PE activities that will include learners with disabilities and special needs in schools and society.
- There is a need to develop an advocacy strategy for raising awareness on physical education for learners with disabilities and special needs.
- There is a need to provide functional, accessible, and appropriate infrastructure, equipment, and materials for regular learners, learners with disabilities, and special needs in schools to promote PE for all.
- There is a need to strengthen multi-sectoral and partnership coordination, monitoring, and evaluation to achieve effective and efficient school-based health and physical education interventions.