Home » National School Health Policy and Guidelines: Human Rights and Gender Principles
National School Health Policy and Guidelines: Human Rights and Gender Principles
Respect for human rights and gender equality are fundamental principles of GTZ Health Sector Programme (HSP) advisory and capacity building support at policy level. The anchoring of the health sector strategies and policies on human rights and gender equality principles is an important condition for assuring that benefits of development reach all segments of society, including the most vulnerable. Over the past years, GTZ HSP has supported the incorporation of human rights and gender equality principles in many important sector documents, including the Joint Programme of Work and Funding, the Code of Conduct and the Community Strategy. Most recently, the programme assisted the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and the Ministry of Education in the development of the National School Health Policy and Guidelines, paying particular attention to the inclusion of human rights and gender aspects. The final policy and guidelines, which were officially launched on 5th August, 2009, provide a good example of successful human rights and gender mainstreaming at policy level.
The National School Health Policy and Guidelines are based on four pillars of Children Rights as outlined in the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Kenya Children Act 2001. These are survival rights, development rights, protection rights and participation Rights.
Both documents intend to strengthen children’s capacity to fulfill/demand their right to health, and education by for instance:
- improving children#s access to health related information;
- creating awareness among teachers, pupils, parents and the community at large on different forms of discrimination, exploitation and violence towards children;
- enhancing access to complaint mechanisms for any of the above cases as well as to rehabilitative/counselling measures;
- developing structures which protect children from abuses;
- facilitating childrenâ€™s active participation in decisions regarding their health and education.
Furthermore, they respect the inter-relatedness of human rights by linking the right to health to other human rights, such as the right to water/ sanitation, information, food/nutrition, privacy and education.
Particular attention is put on the principle of non-discrimination and the need to promote equity among students. The policy requires the support given to students to be responsive to their particular needs, with special attention given to vulnerable children such as girls, orphans or students with disability. At the same time, it calls for awareness to be created among students as well as teachers, parents and the community at large on differences and existing inequalities related to gender and other characteristics. Some of the recommended measures for promoting equity/eliminating discrimination are:
- adapting facilities to the needs of different age groups, boys and girls and children with special needs;
- promoting equal opportunities for girls to education and health, for example, by providing cheap sanitary towels;
- informing on negative cultural practices related to gender, their consequences as well as possible control mechanisms (e.g. FGM, early/forced marriages);
- ensuring HIV positive learners, teachers and staff are not discriminated against and have access to treatment and check ups;
- providing mental health education and promotion;
- introducing measures to prevent discrimination of mentally ill children and staff;
- providing sport and recreational activities for children with disabilities;
- monitoring childrenâ€™s nutritional status and introducing feeding programmes.
The policy and guidelines also touch on another important human rights concern in Kenya, sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of adolescents. They recognize the need to educate students on SRH and provide them with the necessary skills to prevent unwanted pregnancies, disease or sexual violence. Teenage pregnancy, a leading cause of school drop outs as well as ill-health of girls, is approached from a human rights point of view. The policy requires the school to provide counselling to the pregnant girl and her parents to ensure her and the childâ€™s well being (e.g. by visiting ante natal care). The girl has a right to continue her classes as long as possible and seek re-admission to the same or another school after pregnancy. Any discrimination against the teenage mother is prohibited.