Children for Health Reconnects with an Old Friend!

Children for Health has been contacted by an old friend! In 1999 our director, Clare Hanbury was working for Child to Child. She conducted a training workshop with teachers on ‘Children’s Participation in Nutrition‘ workshop in Machakos district in Kenya. Peter Kitela (below) was one of these teachers. As a result of this training workshop, Peter’s son Benson – a 10-year-old pupil at the school became a nutrition ‘messenger’ and activist in one of the school health clubs established in the network of schools. The work Benson did in his club, in his own words “changed my life“. He went on to high school where he studied sciences and then on to university to study biochemistry. Benson now works at Unilever in Nairobi as a Quality Assurance Manager.

Recently, Benson found and got in touch with Clare using Facebook! They established a connection and Clare, Peter and Benson are now in discussion about reviving the health education work in schools in Machakos district and using mobile tools too. Here is a guest post from Peter, a now retired headteacher about his experiences and the impact of the work on his family and community in the 1990s. He is keen to help smooth the path for Children for Health with community leaders and to establish a Children for Health ‘model school’ in Ukala. This school can act as a pilot and catalyst to bring about our active version of health education in this district and maybe to the country as a whole! These anyway are Benson’s ideas!

Kenya is very close to Clare’s heart. She made it her first home as an adult and worked as a teacher there from 1983-85. Since then Clare has done significant amounts of work with the Government of Kenya’s Institute of Education, Kenyatta University and the Government’s Curriculum Unit.

Children for Health is now actively fund-raising to make this pilot programme happen.


By Peter Kitela

Peter Kitela headmaster of the school in Kenya
Peter Kitela

It was 1996 and during a staff meeting when the head teacher Mr. Amos Matolo announced that there would be a special training workshop for teachers the following day at Mbooni family life training centre. He said that each school was required to appoint one creative teacher for the workshop.

In our case it is none other than Mr. Peter K. Kitela, the Music, Art Craft and English teacher,” he said. “Should we carry writing materials?” I asked. “No!” he said, “The training materials will be provided.” I felt on top in the world due to this kind gesture and appreciation. The following morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn to prepare myself for the workshop.

By 9:00 am in the morning, a big crowd of teachers had gathered at the venue. A short moment later the workshop started. It was organized by Makueni Community-based Nutrition Project (MCBNP) under the Kenya Government’s Ministry of Culture and Social Services (MCSS). It was clarified that the training was to be about the concept enabling primary school children to participate in the promotion of nutrition and health education in the community. In our community, we had a problem of malnutrition and this was to be one of the strategies to address it. We were trained as the teachers to lead the children in this approach.

After the training, I held several awareness meetings at my school, Ukala Primary School with the staff, parents, and pupils. Many boys and girls voluntarily joined the program to help me. Meetings were held on Wednesdays after lessons. This was time allocated or clubs and societies. I worked hard with other teachers to implement this special approach.

A second training workshop for the training of implementers (TOI) was held on 12th February -16th February 1996 coordinated by DR. Jane Muita under the MCSS with an international lead trainer leader Clare Hanbury, who at that time was working for Child to Child at the University of London’s Institute of Education. We were awarded Certificates and during the presentation ceremony, Clare congratulated me as one of the best participants! This motivated me a lot.

Impact on Nutrition

A map of Kenya
Makueni County, Kenya

What I discovered was that by using the participatory methods and activities, the children were able to prepare and take action by spreading nutrition and health messages through songs, drama and poems. This attracted mammoth crowds who were not only entertained but also educated on health matters that affected them. Health messages were passed to the community during school parent days. Schools met at divisional level for display. Our Ukala Primary School team also participated at a function at the Eastern Province Embu County. We took part during a National Health Day in Nairobi. But most important, the children improved their health at school and at home and their parents and the community loved and supported this programme.

This programme truly brought positive impact to our community. Before it was introduced there were many cases of referrals of children suffering from Kwashiorkor and Marasmus to Mbooni Family Life Training Center. The disease of malnutrition was popularly known as Kwa Katungulu and these greatly affected those low- and middle-income earners who suffered from famine resulting from drought and could not afford the escalating cost of protein and vitamin rich foods. Their diet comprised mostly of carbohydrates. They tended to sell many of the foods they grew that were rich in protein and vitamins foods and, with the money to buy carbohydrates that were cheaper.

After the introduction this nutrition and health programme children were asking for protein and vitamin rich foods and helped to prepare meals that gave them a balanced diet. People stated to eat more beans, peas, sukuma (a green cabbage), oranges, papaws, avocados and bananas. Families could be seen to be keeping hens for eggs and dairy cows for milk and for family consumption. After the programme had been going for a while, it was rare to find children suffering from Marasmus and Kwashiorkor. Thus, Mbooni Family Life Training Programme transferred to other parts of Makueni County.

Impact on Clean Safe Water and Good Hygiene

Another health topic we focused on was clean safe water for drinking and cooking. Before the programme began there was just one water point used by over 130 households. It was not protected from both wild and domestic animals. People did not clean the water point and used dirty containers for drawing and storing water. Some had a bad attitude claiming that they had been using clean water for ages and nothing bad happened. The water was not boiled or treated with chlorine. On the onset of rain the water point could be filled with eroded materials. Some people did not have latrines but helped themselves in the bushes. It was very common to hear of cases of people suffering from diarrhoea and even Typhoid and Cholera. Washing food before cooking and even washing edible fruits before eating was not common.

the countryside in Machakos district
Farming in Machakos

After our programme, behaviour changed and a lot of improvement was made. The water point was protected from both domestic and wild animals by putting up a temporary fence with a gate. A clean container is placed at the water point for use to fetch water by everybody. Water is fetched and stored in clean containers. Drinking water is either boiled or treated with Chlorine. Bottled water is also available in the nearby shops. People stated to build either a temporary or permanent latrines. There are ‘leaky tins’ near the latrines for people to wash hands after visiting latrines.

Impact on Malaria and HIV

Since the people live in the tropical lands of Africa they are not spared by mosquitoes. They suffered from Malaria due to their bite. When we started to focus on malaria messages and activities, families started to take up and use mosquito nets. Tall grass and bushes are cut short or cleared. When we were suffering the HIV/AIDS scourge was there and the risks were not taken seriously as some thought it was not real but a curse or sin. We were able to work with the children to spread health message on abstinence and other life skills. This has resulted to change of attitude from irresponsible sexual behaviour among the young children leading to a reduction of infection.


For the children who were members of the programme, they improved their talents; they became more creative and were able to communicate more effectively. Some of them pursued education up to University level. Take my son Benson K Kitela who after graduating from Egerton University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Food Science and Technology is now working with Unilever Kenya Limited. He reported to me how the programme made him feel important and respected and that this feeling never left him and has helped him all his life.

What I wish for the Future

It is now many years since this programme was brought to us. But I strongly believe that this type of programme needs to be sustained and supported. I have heard that Clare Hanbury is still developing this work through her organisation, Children for Health. I request people of good will if they can help us to work together to accomplish the following:

  1. Create a CTC coordinating office at either Zonal, Divisional, Sub county, County or National Level
  2. Training more implementers (TOI) at schools who can implement this approach through the already existing School Health Clubs like the Kyuu Primary School where I retired as head teacher in September 2015.
  3. Provide health publications and text books.
  4. Organise health days where schools can meet up and display health activities
  5. Organise visits both locally and internationally for exchange of ideas.
  6. Work in collaboration with the county government for support.
  7. Support the community with water tanks, Boreholes and establishing tree Nurseries
  8. Assist communities in building permanent latrines in the community.

As a first step, we are working to make these ideas live again in our school with Clare and Children for Health guiding us. We will show you what we can achieve! Long live our children. Let’s help them promote health!

Retired Headmaster