Right to Play

Right to Play

“I remember my childhood growing up in a middleclass estate with nostalgia. I played and cycled a lot outside. There was plenty of space to indulge my love for outdoor physical activities, even a lovely public playground. I also walked to school every day. It was safe to do so, even for a girl like me. Fast forward 15 years later, the same estate, there is hardly any space left for children to play. The only playground has been ‘grabbed’ by a private developer, in its stead, an ugly two storey building!” a staff member recalls.

Unless you are the 1% who live in the plush, spacious, gated neighbourhoods of Nyari, Nyali, Karen, Muthaiga etc, majority of Kenyans rely on government amenities. And because these are nonexistent, children nowadays are left with no option but to spend their days at home, holed up indoors watching T.V.

You are thinking, school. They can do all the running they want at school.

There has been unprecedented growth in privately run schools especially in urban areas where the demand is higher. Sadly, a quick survey of such schools conducted in the lower income areas of Nairobi revealed that most occupy a tiny piece of land that only accommodates buildings. Children in such schools do not take part in meaningful activity since the physical environment cannot support active play and sports.

Physical activity is obviously viewed as an unimportant component of the education process.

In Kenya today, we have children who have no opportunities for physical activity at home, and at school!

Why the fuss about physical activity? Surely it can’t be that important

You are wrong. Research has clearly shown that active children are happy and healthy and more likely to become healthy adults.

Regular physical activity helps prevent diseases including obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, colon cancer and premature mortality.

Children and youth aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily which:

  • Improves cardiorespiratory fitness (development of healthy lungs and heart)
  • Enhances musculoskeletal health (i.e. bones, muscles and joints)
  • Provides protective benefits against cardiovascular and metabolic diseases such as diabetes
  • Promotes healthy body weight

Physical activity has also been associated with psychological benefits in young people by improving their control over symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Physically active children more readily adopt other healthy behaviours (e.g. avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and drug use) and demonstrate higher academic performance at school.

Physical inactivity is one of the main factors responsible for the current increase in childhood obesity and adult chronic diseases in Kenya.

What does the ‘right to play’ campaign aim to achieve

The impending change of government provides us with the perfect opportunity to press for change. We want to make sure the new government has this issue on their agenda for the next decade.

The government can intervene by creating an environment that encourages physical activity and healthier lifestyles through:

  1. Creation of more public open spaces and recreation resources
  2. School land use policies which regulate school land size and use
  3. Transportation policies that promote active transportation alternatives including bicycle lanes and walking trail
  4. Incorporation of health and nutrition to the physical education curriculum

For more details, and to follow the campaign join our facebook page.

Right to Play