aaThe topic of environment is never an easy one, especially for children. When asked, most children just know the environment as trees, but it is so much more than that. On 26th January, 2018, NIC Bank sought to demystify this hard concept by planting a tree of knowledge at Madaraka Primary School. This was during the launch of a library filled with storybooks at the school on International Environmental Education Day.

Why storybooks?

aaaaaaaStories are not just for entertainment. They are also great learning tools for children. Through stories, a child can easily be taught difficult concepts like pollution and deforestation. Stories also provide avenues for children to be curious and let their minds wander, thereby enabling them to start thinking and ask questions about things that would normally never occur to them. When it comes to environmental education, teachers can use stories to engage the children in creative and imaginative ways. Children can also learn from the characters in the stories about what happens when the environment is taken care of and the consequences of not prioritizing environmental protection.

Even though the school is located in a well-to-do residential area in South B, Lang’ata Constituency, most of the pupils come from the Kibra and Mukuru slums. These are areas characterized by crime, unrest and pollution. These children are very committed to their education, travelling long distances to go to school every day. One of the constants in their lives is a lack of storybooks. In school, the focus is mainly textbooks and other curriculum material. At home, parents are usually too busy trying to make ends meet to be concerned about nurturing a reading culture in their children by buying them storybooks

aaaaThe library launch ceremony was attended by representatives from NIC Bank, school management, parents, teachers and pupils. The children were visibly excited as they waited for the library to be officially opened. As part of the launch, various bringing books to life events were organized for the different classes at the school field. These included read aloud, spelling bee and storytelling. While there, we also used the opportunity to teach children about the environment using the storybooks we would leave in the library. From Mwanza’s Wonderland the children learned about a boy who used the waste at a dumpsite to create beautiful toys, thereby teaching children about recycling. They learned about a greedy chief who depleted all the natural resources and the consequences that came from that in Kijiji cha Ukame , and from the story it became clear to them why environmental conservation was very important not just now, but also for future generations. To underscore that importance, NIC Bank also planted a tree at the school, and got a commitment from the pupils that they would take care of it.

aaaaaThe cutting of the ribbon at the door of the library and unveiling of the plaque was the highlight of the day for the pupils. For a long time, the pupils had mainly communicated in sheng because most of them didn’t know how to speak correct English, and this even transferred to their written communication, making them get consistently low grades in their exams. With the new library at the school, filled with exciting and age-appropriate storybooks, the learning outcomes of the pupils will definitely improve. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, the more the pupils read, the more they’ll know, and the more places they’ll go.

It is said that children are a product of their environment, and with a library now at Madaraka Primary School, the children’s environment is now conducive for nurturing lifelong readers.

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