Translation from Swahili: You must treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It is loaned to you by your children.
In October 2012 Njeri, John, Simba and Joshua visited the first twelve UK-Kenya preschool partners. The Kenyan partners are currently being supported by a preschool development project managed and funded by the Salvation Army. The aim of the visits was to introduce each of the preschools to their new ‘partner’ preschool in the South of England. The Kenyan preschools were located in the Eastern and Central Province of Kenya, in the Kibera slum district of Nairobi, and around Nakuru in the Rift Valley.
We collected a series of photographs from each of the Kenyan preschools that showed the Kenyan children taking “Simba” (a cuddly toy Lion) around their preschool and telling him (and us) three things that they really liked about their preschool, and three things that were a problem. “Simba” was then taken to their English partner preschool and reported (with the help of John and Njeri) to the children ( parents and teachers) on what it was like in the Kenyan partner’s preschool (with the support of the photographs and some video).
Photographs of the English children with Simba have now been sent back to Kenya and each of the English partner preschools is choosing another cuddly toy to send to Kenya with photographs of the children in the UK, showing the new toy and the three things that they are proud of, and those they consider problems to be solved.
The Kenyan children told Simba they really liked Playing, reading, writing, drawing, eating, toys, their teachers, singing, painting, sleeping, swinging, pets and uniform. Perhaps only with the exception of the high priority placed on eating, sleeping and uniforms, these are also among the most common things children in the UK like about their preschools.
When Simba ‘asked’ the Kenyan children about problems in their preschool they talked about the lack of toys and play equipment, books, pencils, and crayons. In many of the settings preschools classroom furniture was non-existent and improvisations included the use of benches, adult tables and chairs and church pews. But in every preschool that we visited there were impressive examples of the teachers efforts and innovation. Every preschool classroom had many wall displays and posters many of which were made from recycled coffee sacks. There were painted seed ‘counters’, and bottle tops for counting and in one preschool even a improvised balance for weighing. A few toys were evident and some of these will have been made by the children’s parents.
These partnerships have significant potential in promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability through ‘carbon partnerships’ where both parties support each other in achieving convergence in their environmental impact (measured through carbon emissions) to achieve their ‘fair earth share’ within global limits. Preschool communities seeking to reduce their footprint need to look at many different aspectsof lives e.g. their energy use, their use of transport, food, waste, what they buy, potential for recycling etc. The partnerships provide a means by which the children, and wider preschool community can compare their situation to those commonly experienced in Africa.
For more information on the OMEP Preschool Partnerships see: www.ecesustainability.org