Child safety in schools is one of the key components in ensuring that students are able to learn.
Research shows that on average, children have approximately 900 to 1,000 hours of instructional time per year, depending on the class level. Thus the safety of children in schools, cannot be overemphasized. If they feel safe, then it’s easier to concentrate on what the teacher is saying.
A number of existing Kenyan laws touch on Child safety in schools. These include The Constitution and The Children’s Act.
The law generally requires all judicial and administrative institutions to treat the interests of the child as first and paramount. Including all persons acting in the name of these institutions. This means that schools have to ensure that children are not exposed to any form of harm, by taking up measures that show regard to their best interests. For example the Safety Standards Manual for schools, launched by The Ministry of Education in 2008.
Our Constitution stipulates that, the child has a right to be protected from all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment. Hence, even the mode of punishment applied in schools should not be excessive.
The law also requires the school premises and accommodation to be suitable and adequate. This covers the number, ages and sex of the pupils in the school. The 2014 report on Secondary School Fees proposed the enforcement of student: teacher ratio policy.
It recommended that no class should have more than 45 students. Also each school should only have a maximum of three streams per class.
Globally, the recommended class size is 40 students per teacher.
Congestion in classes is minimised by this regulation and the children are able to study comfortably.
By law, Schools have to fulfill the prescribed minimum requirements of health and safety and conform to any building regulations to ensure the well-being of the children is upheld. The Kenya School Safety Guidelines for Disaster and Risk Reduction, requires every school to post a blueprint map of its buildings, classrooms, dormitories and hallways.
The school must have an updated list of parents, teachers, staff reachable in case of an emergency. Also regular fire drills are compulsory for better disaster preparedness.
Additionally, schools are required to be inspected. These inspections are carried out by authorised officers with the mandate to enter and inspect at any time, with or without notice. They should in turn report to the Minister of Education on their findings. This ensures that schools are always child friendly and pose no danger to the children.
A school can be closed if it is found to be prejudicial to the physical, mental or moral welfare of the pupils of the school. Or if it does not provide efficient and suitable education or instruction.
The Minister of Education has the power to make any regulation. This is with respect to the conduct and management of schools and to prescribe minimum standards for health, safety of pupils and a satisfactory environment for education.
All these measures have been put in place to ensure our children are safe when learning.