Between November 3rd and 13th 2013, Clare Hanbury, Director of Children for Health and a fellow consultant, Nuzzly Ruiz de Forsberg were tasked to support a participatory action planning process for a Child Participation in Nutrition Pilot Programme in the Province of Tete to begin in 2014. As part of this process we felt it was important to consult a group of children. The School Principal at Josina Machel Primary School in Tete City, Veronica Maria da Conceicao Ngwenga arranged for 25 members of the School Club aged 10-13 (grades 4-7) on Wednesday 6th November between 10:30 and 12:30. In addition to the children, adult participants in the consultation process included teachers from the school (3), parents who are on the School Council (the governing body) and a nutrition specialist and government technical education specialists.
There were three aims of the session:
The children were divided into 5 groups according to their ages/class from grades 4-7. Two groups were a mix of grade 4 and 5. The session was divided into three stages:
The aims of this session was to:
At Stage Two, each group took part in a separate different activity. For the grade 4 group, instructions were given verbally and for Grade 5-7 groups we provided written instructions and the groups were requested to read though these instructions while we briefed the youngest ones (Grade 4). Once this was done we went around to each group giving the instructions. After working on the activity for an hour, the children were given fresh fruit juice and then we asked each group to present its work.
Group 1 (Grade 4, 10-11 years):
The children in this group were given a health message to learn and put to actions that were suggested to them: Food that makes you GO (arms in front with fists) and makes you GROW (arms up) and makes you GLOW (rubbing checks with hands) is GOOD food (arms in front with thumbs up)’
They were then asked to put this message to a song and practice a specific role-play with the scenario:
A teacher teachers a lesson on the message, ‘food that makes you GO and makes you GROW and makes you GLOW is GOOD food’. His two pupils practice the message in ‘class’ and then they go home and there meet a child who is their friend but she has not been in class with them. The two children teach their friend the message and together they make up a song to remember the message even better. When the two children next see their teacher they tell him what they did to spread the message and the learning and the children get a ribbon as a prize.
This group did a marvellous job practising and practising the message, the song and the role-play without supervision. They added a lot of personality and creativity to the role-play adding funny bits that made it very engaging. After the presentation all the children in the group joined in with the message and action – it was already sticking in their heads and the children got a huge round of applause! More than any other group, the youngest ones demonstrated brilliantly the potential for this approach. It took approximately 6 minutes to give them instructions and they were able to develop everything from there. It was notable that the children mobilize the rest of their peers and taught them the message at the end without being asked to do so.
After the workshop we had a brief chance to speak with the teachers and other adults who had been involved in the morning. The overall impression was extremely positive.
They were impressed with how relevant and pertinent to what they do and want to do as a school to promote nutrition education. Much the children know and how much they felt they could do and of their agility to come up with good ideas on the spot and in one case turn it into an entertaining drama.
We discussed how important to keep things fun and simple but also not to lose the richness that can come from a more complex reflective activity such as the ‘opportunities chart’.
The work with the children met its objectives. The key things learned include:
Noted was the need for activities like these to be used as a catalyst for further discussion and work. Because these activities go ‘deeper’ than many traditional health education approached, there is a need to address false beliefs and incorrect understanding as they come up and this can be a challenge for a teacher. For example, the children in Grade 6, doing the story thought that the best way children can promote health was to take a younger child with malnutrition to a traditional healer. In this context our nutrition colleague was on hand to lead a discussion with the children on the pros and cons of this approach and what other approaches might be available to them. In a class room setting, this might be more challenging but teachers need to be ready to discuss these deeper issues with children and in a way that is respectful of their family habits and values.
The work of this group and other groups suggested children needed more opportunity to understand what is meant by
Plus they needed more examples of the way in which children can help take action to resolve problem as this dimension seemed beyond most of their experience, hence the great value and potential for this programme!
Enjoying the unexpected!
Two days after this workshop we met up with the School Principal who told us that on Thursday the key message on food learned and shared in the role play was being chanted all over the school!