Waste management is one of the major challenges that residents of the informal settlements in Kisumu’s urban experience. The city, like many growing urban areas in Kenya, is grappling with increasing waste generation and subsequent pollution from its improper management of refuse. Sustainable solid waste management has remained elusive due to lack of adequate funding and skilled personnel coupled by the general public’s poor attitude towards waste management.
It is against this backdrop that the County Government of Kisumu in partnership with the Complex Urban System for Sustainable Health project, organized a series of public engagement fora with different groups drawn from four informal settlements. The aim of these convenings was to get the perspectives of local residents on the challenges of waste management in abid to developing a more sustainable, efficient and effective waste management system. One of the ways was working with school-going children, to train them as ambassadors of waste management at school, their homes and within their communities.
We worked with 85 children drawn from four schools in the informal settlements, namely Pandpieri Primary School (Nyalenda), Manyatta Primary School (Kondele), Obinju Primary School (Manyatta) and Kudho Primary School (Obunga). We held one session at each school exploring different concepts and approaches in waste management.
During the engagement, pupils identified waste generated in the school playground and classroom, at home, and in the community and held interactive sessions on different ways the waste can be managed. One of the highlights was the screening of short documentaries made in some of the informal settlements demonstrating the importance of managing waste and how it can be converted into wealth. The engagement also saw the pupils develop an action plan on the areas that they will be working on in the coming months. The engagements resulted in a raft of recommendations for various stakeholders.
- Head teachers in the four schools to activate waste management clubs before the next session.
- The CUSSH team recommended that teachers integrate waste management lessons and climate change into the school curriculum.
- Further the teachers and trained ‘ambassadors’ to be at the forefront of guiding pupils on the proper use of waste bins that were donated during the engagement process.
- All schools have waste separation bins for plastics, papers and organic waste.
Materials in the recycle bins should be collected and handed over to the settlement waste recyclers.
- To Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse waste, as well as hold annual sensitization sessions.
- Develop ‘littering’ rules and regulations that are signed when students join schools each year.
- The Ministry of Education should reward best waste practices annually and to support schools to access standardized ways of waste disposal.
Public engagement is one of the most important strategies in ensuring sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness of the waste management system. Moreover, participation and sound waste management promotes empowerment, improved health and sustains important physical assets, the essence of the CUSSH project to the City of Kisumu and the residents of the informal settlements.
This blog was written by Sween Khayanga, a Research Assistant on the CUSSH Enrichment project.