Primary and secondary head teachers in Nairobi are important ambassadors when it comes to implementation of the national school health policy. However, only 15 percent of schools in Nairobi have a comprehensive school health program. The Strengthening Evidence for Programming on Unintended Pregnancy (STEP UP) Research Programme Consortium wants to scale up this proportion to 50 percent by 2017. Achieving this goal will require engagement with stakeholders to understand the challenges schools face in implementing school health programs.
APHRC, a STEP UP partner, held a consultative meeting with primary and secondary head teachers on March 20, 2015 to shape the development of an evidence-based action plan for improving school health programming in Nairobi. Caroline Kabiru, a Research Scientist at APHRC, presented evidence on early pregnancies in Kenya and noted that Kenya has a high adolescent fertility rate at 103 births per 1000 adolescent girls aged 15-19 years. She further reported that, according to the 2008 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 98 percent of girls aged 15-19 years who have ever been pregnant are out of school. This clearly suggests that pregnancy often means the end of education for adolescent girls. These numbers shocked head teachers, saying there was need for an immediate action plan.
“We need to incorporate the school health policy into life skills lessons. This way, the teachers will be largely involved in implementation of the school health program.” Fred Awour, principal of Eastleigh Boys School said.
APHRC Researcher Joyce Mumah said schools serve as a critical avenue to reach adolescents with health information and services. Evidence suggests comprehensive school health programs are associated with improved sexual and reproductive health outcomes. However, some areas in the school health policy such as adolescent sexual health are not comprehensively addressed.
“This meeting has been very instrumental in helping us identify what issues are in the school health policy. For years we were oblivious of what it entails and our role in implementing it.” said Eunice Mlati, principal of Moi Avenue Primary school.
At the end of the day, all head teachers present were in agreement that there was an urgent need to implement all aspects the school health policy in schools. The recommendations from the meeting will be forwarded to the Nairobi City County government for discussion on how to draft an action plan.