- Written by Silvia Mwendia for KenyaKiz
While on Facebook, a 13 year old girl meets a boy who she frequently starts chatting with. Little does the girl know that her online fling is a grown man. Soon after, the girl agrees to meet her lover for a date in town but what was meant to be an innocent date leaves the young teenager drugged and raped.
This horrifying shocking true story is becoming increasingly common but one Watoto Watch Network hopes to nip in the bud before it spirals out of control. Welcome to the world of child on line abuse- the dark part of the internet that our young ones are not aware of as they freely share their tweetpics, Instagram posts and snapchats for everyone to see.
Watoto Watch Network, a not for profit organisation was formed in 2012 to fill the gap of protecting children online through awareness trainings.
“As our country becomes more tech savvy with the you leading this, we noticed that children do not know the risks involved,” said Lillian Kariuki, Executive Director of Watoto Watch Network.
According to a 2013 UNICEF report-A (Private) Public Space Examining the Use and Impact of Digital and Social Media Among Adolescents in Kenya, 53 per cent of Kenyan children aged 12-17 years have experienced on line abuse through cyberbullying, defamation and spread of hateful content. These worrying figures clearly show that child online abuse is something Kenyan families need to be aware of.
According to UK Charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), on line abuse comes in various forms such as cyberbullying which eventually morphs into bullying.
“This is common among the younger kids on social media. Since they all go to the same school they will also be friends on social media websites like Facebook. What happens is if hateful things are said about them on line then this abuse also speads to the classroom,” said Kariuki.
Grooming is another type of child on line abuse whereby “someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation”, states NSPCC. Groomers can be strangers or people familiar to the children and they usually start off by befriending the minors. Albeit still at a low point, grooming may be slowly gaining traction in Kenya. According to the UNICEF report, 66 per cent of teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 years have confessed to accepting friend or chat requests online from people they do not know in real life.
Grooming may lead to child online sexual exploitation and abuse. Here the child are persuaded or forced to send sexually explicit images of themselves, participate in sexual activities via webcam or engage in sexual conversations by texting or on the internet. The 2013 report for instance states that 12 per cent of children aged between 12 and 17 years reported that they were asked to send photos of themselves whereby they were not fully dressed.
According to Kariuki, Kenyan children have also reported instances of identity theft whereby the photos found on their social media accounts are cropped and used for ulterior motives. The UNICEF report also indicates that 17 per cent of Kenyan children aged 12 to 17 years have had their accounts hacked and people pretend to be them. Others have even reported being stalked.
Despite these worrying trends, there is hope which can be found in the power of information. Kariuki advises parents to arm themselves with both technical know-how of the social media sites their children are visiting and the risks involved so that they can better educate their young ones.
- Written by Super User
An on line platform is giving Kenya Kids a chance to learn science in a simple and fun way.
Known as FunKe Science, the platform enables children to experience science through experiments and engaging activities.
Started last year, FunKe Science aims to change the negative attitude towards science beginning with how it is taught.
“When we were carrying out science activities at the Storymoja Hay Festival, we noticed how excited children and their parents were by what we were doing. We noticed that there was a disconnect somewhere and that children needed to be taught science in a more engaging way,” explains co-founder of FunKe Science, Tracey Shiundu.
Started by a group of science lovers and graduates, FunKe Science also hopes to change children's mentality towards the subject.
“We also noticed how children do not understand the practicality of science therefore creating a gap and this is no surprise because even comparing with our campus days, there were more students in the arts than there were in the sciences,” remarks Tracey.
“We are not necessarily seeking to change their mindsets so that everyone is getting into science, rather what we want to do is ensure that every child understands what is happening,” adds the co-founder.
On of the ways FunKe Science carries out its work is through school visits.
“Once a school calls upon us we visit schools and teach them scientific concepts through fun experiments,” says Tracey. Among the schools they have visited are Makini and Loreto Msongari.
The school visits which normally target primary school going children are one hour long sessions and sees he children divided into age groups or classes.
The prices for the school visits vary depending on how many children are in a session. For a group of thrity children or more one will be charged Sh500 per child. One-on-one personal sessions are also offered but at a higher fee of Sh1500 per child.
Apart from schools, they have also showcased their experiments at the Storymoja Festival. They have also done social work activities at a social center in Lang'ata and at the Supermamas charity event for kids with cerebral palsy.
FunKe Science regards its different approach to teaching the subject as one of the things that sets them apart from how science is taught in school.
“You will find that the way science is taught, it focuses too much on textbooks,” says Tracey. She goes on to add that FunKe Science is trying to “Kenyanize” the way the subject is taught.
“By contextualizing science to something kids are familiar with. For instance in our school visits, we do experiments with everyday materials children know like sufurias, mwikos, flour,water sugar,” remarks the co-founder.
This year, FunKe Science has a number of plans they want to carry out. The first of these is a science fest.
“We would like to have a big science fest whereby a system develops such that children are able to exchange ideas and learn from one another,” said Tracey.
For the fest, they plan to target primary school children so that they can “break a niche”, build themselves around these children and “grow with them”.
Another plan for the year are estate visits.
“During the holidays we would like to visit an estate and enact these science concepts that they have been learning in school,” comments Tracey. In April they would like to visitone in Lang'ata.
In addition to the science fest and holiday estate visits, the on line platform also has plans to develop a “kid-friendly” on line game that will reinforce scientific concepts taught.
Parents can also play a role in getting children to like science.
“It's more of your attititude towards it and letting your child be,” advises Tracey.
“I give an example my co-founder Dennis, a geologist who while applying for the Google Tech Entrepreneur program learned that one of the director's daughters love rocks. The parent has no idea about geology but since they met Dennis, they have been urging him to bring rocks fro the daughter.” narrates Tracey. She goes on to add that basically one just requires a positive attititude.
In the long term, FunKe Science would to see a change in the way science is taught in schools but Tracey does acknowledge though that this would be a challenge.
“In order to make science more practical in the way it is taught, there would need to be a lot of investment in equipment which can come in as a challenge,” notes Tracey who is quick to add though that e-learning platforms may just be the answer.
“Our dream therefore is to just encourage more African scientists who come up with the solutions to African problems,” concludes Tracey.
FunKe Science has its offices at the C4DLab on University of Nairobi's Chiromo Campus. For more information on FunKe Science, call Tracey Shiundu on 0726 116 976. FunKe Science can also be reached by visiting their website-http://funkescience.co.ke, their Facebook page-FunKe Science, following them on Twitter-@funkescience or checking out their YouTube Channel-FunKe Science
- Written by Silvia Mwendia for Kenya kidz
A newly created digital library is offering Kenya kids a chance to read, write, self publish and download stories in local African languages for free from their website. Children can also employ the use of an editor at the website.
Dubbed African Story Project (ASP), the one year old website caters to children aged two to ten years. Through the website, Kenya kids and children from all over Africa can find, read and download stories in local African languages.
“Through the African Storybook Project, children can access storybooks in a variety of languages such as Kiswahili, Gusii, Maa, Zulu, Luganda and many more,” said Abel Mote, the partner development co-ordinater at African Storybook Project. Abel goes on to add that they also have stories in English and are looking into rolling ones out in French and Portuguese.
Just over an year old, ASP is an initiative of South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) and was started by Judith Baker, an early childhood literacy professional.
“When Judith was in South Africa, she was looking for children's books in Zulu but was not able to find a single one,”explains Able of ASP's origins. “Inspired by this, she teamed up with Dorcas Wepkhulu, a Kenyan studying in South Africa at the time to try and come up with a way of making African stories more accessible to children.” The two ladies teamed up with UK charity, Comic Relief and SAIDE giving birth to the African Storybook Project.
African Storybook Project works by providing a platform for anyone to publish African stories on their website for an audience of two to ten year olds. The stories should also be in African languages.
“Not only can one publish stories on the website but they can also find stories and download them for free and adapt or translate them from one language to another,”explains Abel on how ASP works.
On creating stories, one has the option of doing so via the website or sending the story to the one of their editors.
“The self-publishing option allows one to use a template to create their story and choose from a number of illustrations,”said Abel. He goes on to add that if one wants specific illustrations, they can also contact them. Abel advises children who wish to publish their stories to send it to the editors or do so with the help of an adult.
Africa Storybook Project uses a creative commons license giving anyone the right to freely access and distribute the stories found on the website.
“Despite this type of license, we encourage our users to credit the necessary people when making use of the stories,”remarked Abel.
The stories on ASP make for a great learning tool in schools.
“Since they can be accessed for free, teachers can make use of this by downloading and printing the stories then using them in class,”noted Abel.
Teachers can also projected in classrooms using projectors.
In a bid to spread the word about the Africa Storybook Project, several pilot sites have been launched in Kenya, Uganda and Southern Africa.
“At our pilot sites, we aim to encourage communities to tell own children's stories through the website,”said Abel.
This is done by looking for innovative technology that can be used together with the website to bring stories to the children in these, sometimes, remote areas.
“A good example is the hand-held, battery operated projector which becomes helpful in areas without electricity,” remarked Abel.
ASP also educates the communities on how to self-publish using the website. By selecting a few a few schools in an area, they are able to intensively train them on how to accomplish this.
It is through these training that the African Storybook Project discovered that even teachers were having a problem when it came to reading to the children.
“Through the project, we are also re-thinking the pedagogy of reading. You will find that most teachers teach kids how to imitate and not read. With the help of some universities such as Kenyatta University, we hope to be able to teach teachers how to teach kids how to read,” said Abel.
In the coming years, the Africa Storybook Project aspires to grow the use of African storybooks in local languages and enable communities to create these stories without their help.
“I think a milestone will have been reached when we will see a 60 year-old grandmother create a story on our website,” remarked Abel.
For the mean time now, ASP is looking to develop an application as the stories cannot be created on the mobile device. They would also like to partner with as many people as possible, especially those in the technology world, to make this a reality.