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Copyright 2008 Heldref Publications

Early Childhood Music Education in

Kenya: Between Broad National Policies
and Local Realities

Abstract: The historical development growth has been disproportionate across nomadic communities remains elusive.
of early childhood music education the different sectors of early childhood Mobile schools and feeding programs
(ECE) in Kenya reveals the challenging education (ECE), primary, secondary, in these areas mainly target children
circumstances under which it has, and and tertiary education. Although primary in primary school. However, the real-
continues, to progress. Poverty remains education received the most focus in ity of poverty in the countrywhich
the most formidable hindrance to the terms of policymaking, deliberate finan- results in the engagement of the child
success of this area of education. Mul- cial investment targeted higher education; in the adult domain, especially in terms
ticulturalism, the mosaic that defines however, this trend is reversing. Kenya of child laborcontinues to be a chal-
Kenyas rich heritage, also demands now has free (although not compulsory) lenge. Some children start school late
ingenuity from policymakers in formu- primary education for eight years and because they have to stay home and
lating sound guiding principles that are offers another four years of secondary watch over younger siblings while par-
inclusive of the diverse cultures inherent education that remains unaffordable for ents and older siblings work; some end
in the country. The key to addressing the the poor majority. An additional four up not going to school at all. It has
challenges of ECE lies in strengthen- years of university education remains been claimed, however, that this situa-
ing the tripartite relationship between extremely competitive, expensive, and tion has improved since the introduction
policy makers who are the authors of attainable for fewer than 10 percent of of universal primary education in 2003
the current broad policies, the curricu- those completing secondary education. (Government of Kenya 2006c).
lum designers, and the teachers who Current policies influencing young In this article, we discuss policies in
implement the curriculum. Deliberate children are largely shaped by inequities ECE and the place of music, and contrast
networking of their ideas and activities between the poor and the rich, urban broad policies in which music is denied
provides a way forward in propelling and rural communities, and agricultur- prominence and local realities in which
music education in early childhood. ally based and pastoralist-nomadic com- music is an integral part of instruction.
munities. Estimates indicate that greater Building on the challenges of poverty
Keywords: curriculum, multicultural, than 50 percent of Kenyans are living already set forth, we consider the local
policies, poverty below the poverty line. A majority of context and effects of multiculturalism

those live in rural areas or urban slums. on ECE and the development of ECE
ocated in the eastern most Enrollment in ECE for the children in policies and the current status, and make
region of Africa, Kenya has an this category remains low, and govern- recommendations for enacting policies
estimated population of thirty- ment efforts to make ECE accessible to promote music practice in ECE.
four million people, more than remain inadequate. In some rural areas,
50 percent of whom are chil- schools are far from home and traveling Lived Realities: The Local Context
dren under eighteen years of age. After such distances poses threats to young
achieving independence from Britain in children. In such cases, children remain One Country, Many Cultures
1963, Kenya witnessed massive growth at home and join school when they are Kenya is a multicultural and mul-
in the education sector. However, this of a reasonable age. Similarly, ECE for tiethnic country with over forty-two

Vol. 109, No. 2, November/December 2007 43

indigenous ethnic communities coex- each ethnic group in terms of rhythm, received through the enculturation of
isting within its borders. In addition, a scales, melodic structure, and style of everyday community life.
significant percentage of nonindigenous performance. Different communities use Omibiyi-Obidike (ctd. in Akuno 2005)
people live in the country, adding their different instruments to accompany their categorized two stages of traditional
influence to its culture (Musau 2002). songs, whereas others do not use instru- music education shared by communities
Each of the forty-two communities has ments; dance, a vital accompaniment to throughout Africa. The first is the music
a distinct language and way of life. song in Kenya (Zake), also varies in style education every child received, begin-
Although some of these communities among communities. ning from birth and continuing until
share certain similarities in language, Each of the diverse cultural charac- death. The aim of this education was to
cultural beliefs, and cultural practices, teristics that define the Kenyan popu- integrate individuals into their culture
each is recognized as a distinct entity lation was considered in the devel- and incorporate them into the musi-
that contributes to the variety of cultures opment of the main curriculum and cal components of communal life (12).
that define Kenya. Most of the multicul- is reflected in the various languages This education also socialized individu-
tural population, featuring Kenyan eth- of instruction required for different als into their community, thereby giving
nic diversity as well as immigrants from localities. However, poor documenta- them their distinct identity as part of the
other parts of Africa and the world, is tion of songs has limited the use of this cultural group. Music in early childhood
concentrated in urban areas, especially music in ECE, barring cross-cultural was incorporated into daily play activi-
in major towns. In such environments, sharing and presenting a real threat to ties in the form of singing games and
children have the opportunity to experi- the maintenance of an important cul- songs on nature or animals, particularly
ence a variety of cultures by bonding tural repertoire. As the communities those with peculiar habits, such as the
and interacting with others from differ- transition from the oral tradition to the wily hare, greedy hyena, or slow tor-
ent ethnic groups and races. written, we need to engage in rigorous toise. Girls also imitated their mothers,
The differences in the diverse urban documentation. rocking dolls while singing to them.
population and the smaller, more homog- Chants were another popular feature in
enous rural population are reflected in Traditional Views on Childhood, childhood play and provided opportu-
the language of instruction in each loca- Education, and Music Education nities for improvisation because those
tion type. To cater to instruction in early Within most African communities, performing them always strove to add
childhood education (ECE) centers in the including Kenya, children constituted new lines to them to make them longer.
multicultural urban areas, a choice must an integral section of society for vari- The second stage of music education
be made between two Kenyan languages: ous reasons: was professional and, therefore, more
Kiswahili, the national language, which exclusively provided to those who were
They ensured continuity of humanity.
is expected to foster national unity; or talented or showed a certain inclina-
They contributed to the economic
English, the official language used in tion toward music. A talented child,
development of the family and soci-
offices and schools (Government of from about the age of eight or slightly
ety by providing labor, especially in
Kenya 2005c). In most rural areas, the older, was guided through the intrica-
communities in which agriculture,
respective single ethnic languages spo- cies of learning and performing on an
fishing, or pastoralist activity was the
ken by the majority population constitute instrument by a family member. It is
key means to livelihood.
the medium of instruction in ECE up to worth noting that professional train-
They guaranteed that their parents
third grade. ing in instrument playing was largely a
were cared for in their old age.
This diversity in the languages of male domain because of cultural beliefs
Kenya is reflected in the countrys music Children belonged to the community, that prohibited women from playing
as well. Akuno (2005) and Zake (1986) and issues of training and discipline or sometimes even handling certain
observe that song is the characteristic were handled by adults, regardless of musical instruments. Additionally, girls
medium of musical expression in Kenya, whether or not they were kin (Kipkorir domestic duties left hardly enough time
playing an important role in the lives 1987, 52). The entire community, whose for learning an instrument (Agak 1998).
of the people from birth until death. aim was to prepare the child for life as Most girls, nevertheless, built their
All Kenyan communities have songs an adult, participated in the education musical repertoire through songs taught
marking the human life cyclefor birth process. Through this informal educa- to them by their mothers.
(including lullabies), circumcision (or tion process, boys trained to become
alternative puberty rites among those men and girls trained for motherhood Current Situation for Childhood
who do not practice circumcision), mar- and homemaking. Young children per- Education and Music Education
riage, war, work, death and funeral, and formed simple chores and spent much of Statistics indicate that by 2005, there
many others describing virtually every their day at play. Play mainly involved was only 35 percent enrollment into
life activity. Although they share this imitation of adult roles, which children ECE centers in all of Kenya, with a
permeating musical presence in daily both directly pursued in dramatic por- depressingly lower percentage (9 per-
life, one finds diversity in the music of trayals of specific models and indirectly cent) in the arid and semiarid regions

44 Arts Education Policy Review

of the country (Government of Kenya colonial era (Agak 2005; Akuno 2005; has been watered down. So, although
2005b). The reality of this dismal situa- Digolo 2005). In ECE, this influence society maintains traditional views of
tion was reflected on August 27, 2007, is particularly evident. Thus, although the childs role in sustaining it, the loss
when one of the main stories on the music is integral at this stage of educa- of traditional musical practices and rep-
Kenya Television Network News fea- tion (Mwaura 1980), the teaching of ertoire to support such a role represents
tured education officials visiting a home it relies heavily on Western European a nationwide dilemma.
in one of the nomadic communities to singing games and folk songs, especial-
compel a parent to send her youngest ly in urban areas. Rural areas are also Venues for Musical Experiences
child to school. The parent was ada- gradually moving away from traditional Four venues that shape Kenyan chil-
mant that, with all the childs siblings Kenyan music to English music. drens musical education today include
in school, there was no one to herd Scholars have thrown a spanner the home, the church, music festivals,
the animals. Although the government [wrench] into the works of traditional and school. Home musical experiences
continues to stiffen penalties against

parents who deny their children educa-
tional opportunities, these problems are
not easy to eliminate.
Today, views on childhood have urrent policies influencing young
changed little. Although children are
still considered important to the con-
children are largely shaped by
tinuation of humanity by virtue of both inequities between the poor and the
being born and taking responsibility for
aging parents, they do not contribute rich, urban and rural communities, and
much to the economic development
of their families during their years in
agriculturally based and pastoralist-
school. Since the inception of formal nomadic communities.
education, the role of the community in
child rearing was largely passed on to
the school environment (Akuno 2005). music education with their argument in most urban areas include singing,
Peers at school have replaced the peers that the study of traditional Kenyan listening to prerecorded music (avail-
children grew up with in the commu- music outside of its natural context is able at most retail supermarkets), and
nity, altering the pattern of socialization. a misrepresentation of its true meaning watching musical shows on television.
This change has impacted education (Njoora 2005). However, because it is Singing with family members is, how-
considerably, particularly the first years not possible to recreate activities associ- ever, a dying art; technologically gen-
of schooling when many children need ated with this music, Njoora suggests a erated music has become a convenient
to adjust to the new environment. The way out of the impasse through mental way of keeping children occupied in
role of education has also changed from recreation of the events associated with the absence of busy parents. This trend
enculturation and a continuity between the music and deliberate attempts to may be less prevalent in rural areas,
home and learning environments into represent the music as closely as pos- but it is permeating there too with the
monocultural or homogeneous commu- sible to its original function (46). fairly easy accessibility of radio in most
nity building to prepare for life and Kenyan music education shares regions in Kenya. The impact of these
work within a global community, often more than repertoire with the Western developments on music education is
requiring a great deal of adaptation on worldadvocacy for music as a subject double-edged: the availability of tech-
the part of the learner. area is also needed, propelled by the nologically generated music ensures
One of the greatest challenges facing deeply situated view of child as future that children are constantly exposed to
music education in Kenya today is its provider. Music education must now music; therefore, they build their musi-
institutionalization. Traditional music compete with other disciplines in the cal skills. However, the loss of singing
of a multicultural society must now be school curriculum that offer much more together at home suggests erosion of
studied, in all its diversity, within the lucrative promise as professions. With Kenyan culture by the disappearance of
formal education system, presenting a few opportunities for career diversifica- one of its most profound mediums of
daunting task for teacher preparation. tion in Kenya (Akuno 2005), music edu- cultural identity and expressiontradi-
Many teachers openly confess their lack cation faces stiff competition from other tional songs. This is especially the case
of knowledge of traditional Kenyan disciplines. As a result, in ECE, music is because most of the prerecorded music
music, having experienced a music edu- largely used to teach concepts in other has Western roots. Another danger of
cation heavily skewed toward Western disciplines. Its relegation to the periph- reliance on music produced for mass
European music, a situation brought ery of education is a sure testimony that audiences is the difficulty of controlling
about by the missionaries during the the role it played in traditional society the textual subject matter, often morally

Vol. 109, No. 2, November/December 2007 45

compromised and, therefore, a negative ticipation in such a competitive festival Childhood Education (NACECE) and
influence on childrens socialization. requires much more preparation time ECE teacher educators should engage
The church also plays a key role in from the teachers and considerable funds teacher candidates in the discussion on
music education in Kenya. Eighty per- have to be spent for costumes and mate- attitudes toward traditional music and
cent of Kenyans are nominal Christians, rials. The willingness to invest extensive the extensive analysis of the benefits of
attending church services at least once time and monetary resources in music using this music in education.
a week. Parents consider the church a performance speaks to its importance
safe haven for their children, shield- to those involved and provides a sig- Educational Policies for Early
ing them from many negative practices. nificant rationale for continued support. Childhood Music
Recently, churches have invested con- ECE center participants also perform in
siderably in music, buying instruments other arts areas, most notably the reci- Principles: Partnership and
and providing myriad opportunities tation of solo or choral verses, either Decentralization
for performance. Children participate composed by the teacher or prescribed Much has happened since the incep-
in these activities and, through them, as a set piece in the festival program. tion of ECE in Kenya in the 1940s,
build artistic skills in music, dance, and More recently, ECE center participants when Kenya was a British colony. First,
drama. Some of the music performed in performed at the annual drama festival, Kenyan education was provided accord-
church now forms part of the repertoire a separate event from the music festi- ing to four distinct curricula: European,
of ECE music sessions. This develop- val. These are all important avenues for Asian, Arabic, and African. Akuno
ment, however, needs to be addressed developing the child artist. Their visibil- (2005) and Agak (2005) note that the
with caution because there are instances ity helps to ensure that music remains in first three curricula accommodated the
in which parents subscribing to different the school curriculum. music of their respective cultures, where-
religious beliefs have raised concerns The school, the last avenue consid- as in the African curriculum, learners
regarding its performance in public or ered here, is the place in which all of was subjected to Sunday school songs,
private schools with no specific reli- these musical experiences are brought church hymns and Western folksongs
gious affiliations. together. At school, the teacher holds (Akuno, 17) and were not permitted to
The Kenya Music Festival, an annual great sway on the childs subsequent sing their own traditional music. This is
event since 1926 (Akuno 2005), is argu- musical experiences. The process of because Kenyan and African music was
ably the most popular musical event in music education is greatly determined associated with heathen practices and,
educational institutions in the country. by teachers preferences and inclina- therefore, its performance was discour-
It provides an avenue for children at all tions toward music. It is important for aged at all costs. Later attempts to rein-
levels of education to present music, teachers to provide many opportuni- troduce it into the curriculum bore little
dance, and elocution (including public ties for children to express their varied fruit, chiefly because of the approach
speaking and singing) on a competi- musical abilities, nurtured by the dif- used in this venture.
tive basis and includes issues address- ferent avenues through which they gain After Kenyas independence in 1963,
ing social injustice in its program top- access to music. ECE became accessible to many more
ics. These include childrens rights to These experiences should complement children (NACECE 1987) when the
education and a life free of violence, Kenyas rich cultural heritage, to which newly constituted government realized
warnings about drug abuse, and issues children are entitled, rather than replace the magnitude of providing education
surrounding HIV/AIDS and child labor. it. Ethnic songs that have enriched the to its citizens and coined the motto
Teachers compose music or choral vers- childs play over time should not be Harambee, meaning pooling together
es on these issues and train the children pushed to the periphery because they (Mwaura 1980). Kenyans heeded this
to perform and present the programs at may soon disappear, paving the way call and came together within their local
the festival. In this sense, music educa- for modernism: prerecorded West- communities to build ECE centers.
tion has continued to play the role of ern music and religious songs. Nega- The government formulated key poli-
socialization. This is a strong rationale tive attitudes toward traditional music cies governing ECE between 1972 and
for its continued existence in the school should be examined and challenged. 2002. They were formulated as a result
curriculum at all levels of education. Akuno (2005) proposes the theory of of findings from an experimental proj-
Although private ECE centers have functionalism as the most appropriate ect, the Pre-school Education Project,
been participating for a long time, public means of viewing African music. The jointly sponsored by the government
ECE centers only recently took an active theory states that meaning in music and the Bernard van Leer Foundation of
role in the event following a directive should be derived from the role it plays The Hague, The Netherlands (NACECE
from the city education office. Most per- in the life of those who make it (160). 1987). This project was carried out in
formances by children at this stage con- The meaning of cultural music should, a bid to formulate an intervention pro-
stitute singing games in two categories: therefore, be derived from its role as a gram to improve the quality of pre-
Western and African. In comparison to socialization agent. Curriculum devel- school education and advise on strate-
an in-school musical performance, par- opers at the National Center for Early gies for government participation in this

46 Arts Education Policy Review

level of education. The project focused levels (NACECE 1987, 5859). The or Kiswahili, whereas in rural areas, the
on two key areas: development of ECE main task of NACECE was to build the local language is used as the medium
curricula and training of teachers. capacities of the districts to enact their of instruction. Localization also applies
Following the completion of the proj- own context and culturally relevant cur- to learning resources including story-
ect in 1982, the first national seminar on ricula and training of teachers, as well as books, poems, and songs in terms of the
ECE was held in Malindi, Kenya, and monitor quality of these processes. language in which they are written and
two key recommendations were made, The 197282 preschool education their source. They should be authentic
namely, dissemination of the findings of project and the three subsequent semi- to the community from which they are
the project countrywide and establish- nars summarize the genesis of ECE in drawn and written in the native lan-
ment of an NACECE to advise the gov- Kenya. The outcomes of the project guage of their origin.
ernment on the modalities and logistics and the seminars have remained the The curriculum strongly advocates
of such an endeavor. A second national cornerstones of ECE in Kenya to date, for learning through play because play
seminar was held in 1987, and a third particularly in the areas of curriculum is the basic way a child makes sense
regional one in 2002, with representa- development and teacher training. How- of reality (Manani 1993). Following
tions from Kenya, Uganda, and Tan- ever, the impact of these processes on this framework, the curriculum advo-
zania. These forums mainly addressed music education is not documented. cates for activity-based learning. This
the empowerment of parents and the approach allows for the child to learn
community, who would eventually run Curricular Issues by doing and experimenting, rather
70 percent of the preschools and make The formal ECE curriculum. The KIE than through didactic methods (Mwaura
decisions on curriculum issues. This is the curriculum developer for the 1980). Thus, children trained using this
was in line with the government strat- Ministry of Education. It develops cur- curriculum should engage in activities
egy of pooling together its citizens to ricula for all levels of education in such as counting tangible objects, form-
attain national developmental goals. Kenya excluding universities. The ECE ing shapes and numbers, or engaging in
The impact of these forums is sig- curriculum developed by KIE repre- song and movement.
nificant. Two key policies, which came sents the governments approved prac-
from the recommendations of the first tice in ECE and is used in all public Learning activities in ECE. The KIE ECE
two forums, still govern ECE in Kenya and the majority of private preschools. curriculum specifies the following learn-
to date: On a smaller scale, two alternative ing activities for children: (a) language,
curricula have been in use in some (b) outdoor and physical activities, (c)
Provision of ECE through partnership
schools for many years: the kindergar- music and movement, (d) environmen-
among the government, parents, and
ten headmistresses association (KHA) tal activities, and (e) creative activities.
local communities and partnership
curriculum and the Montessori cur- Music and movement activities, as stated
among relevant government minis-
riculum. Although aspects of the KIE in the curriculum preamble, are impor-
tries of Education, Health, Agricul-
curriculum can be found within them, tant to enhancing learning (Government
ture, Planning and others
the government recently issued a direc- of Kenya 2001). Such areas of learning
Decentralization of preschool edu-
tive that the three curricula be harmo- through music as identified in the curric-
cation services, including training,
nized to ensure a uniform ECE experi- ulum are the following: (a) socialization,
within the framework of district cen-
ence for Kenyan children (confidential through which the child is integrated into
ters for ECE (DICECE; Kenya Insti-
interview with curriculum developer, the (school) community; (b) appreciation
tute of Education [KIE] 2002)
pers. comm.). of music and culture of other communi-
The first policy issue regarding partner- The KIE (Government of Kenya ties; (c) development of self-expression;
ship has largely influenced the develop- 2001) ECE curriculum is designed to and (d) communication skills.
ment of ECE. Unusually, ECE is funded be adaptable to the diverse cultural, Objectives of music and movement
by the local authorities and features a geographical, and musical conditions are listed, and include the following: (a)
strong partnership with the community, existing in the different regions of the relaxation and enjoyment, (b) apprecia-
different from the primary and secondary country. The key aspects of this cur- tion of other cultures and international
school levels, which are run and funded riculum are the use of localized raw consciousness, (c) creation of the childs
solely by the central government through materials to design learning materials. own songs and movement, and (d) early
the Ministry of Education. Based on For instance, in an area in which trees appreciation of music as a foundation
the second policy of decentralization, are plentiful, materials such as shapes for subsequent musical development.
NACECE was established in 1984 and used for counting should be fashioned Music and movement is adequately
thereafter ECE services were decentral- out of wood. Localization also applies described in the curriculum guideline
ized to the districts. NACECE would act to the language of instruction because document, which also contains a sample
as the main link among all the district Kenya is a multiethnic and multicultural of music skills, activities, and materials
centers, develop curricula and coordi- country. As noted earlier, children in for children between ages three and six
nate training of teachers at the DICECE urban areas are taught in either English years old. Such skills include singing,

Vol. 109, No. 2, November/December 2007 47

dancing or movement, making rhythm, music education practice in light of the and further other educational goals (Gov-
listening, and playing musical instru- curriculum requirements and the Service ernment of Kenya 2005a). Primos (1998)
ments. Materials to be used include Standard Guidelines may lead to some supports this view through her inclu-
sticks, drums, shakers, piano, guitar, answers on how to bridge this gap. sion of integrated studies among holistic
pitch pipe, CD players, and costumes. activities, postulating that the connection
Adequate guidelines for the teaching Holistic learning. Primos (1998) observes of music with other areas of knowledge
of music and movement in ECE are also that holism has no simple definition opens up opportunities for connections
strongly featured in this document. The and ultimately describes it as an attitude and relationships between disciplines.
descriptions of skills to be developed, or frame of mind that governs ones way Integrated studies are a widely prac-
activities children should engage in, and of thinking. The alternative to a holis- ticed phenomenon in ECE in Kenya.
materials to be used in the learning tic approach is reductionism, in which However, the connections are usually
process reflect deep understanding of one studies constituent parts and is less one-sided because although music is

used to teach other activity areas, the
converse, using other activity areas to
teach music education, is not usually

ulticultural music education considered (although it actually does

take place, such as when children are
should be regarded as an taught poetry, which aids in rhythmic
development). Because music educa-
avenue for understanding the way of tion as a discipline is taught only once a

life of other cultures within and outside week, the extent to which musical skills
are acquired in integrated studies is argu-
of Kenya. able but can be supported by the notion
that in doing, the children become;
thus, in singing, they become better
music education as a learning expe- concerned with the overall influences of singers, whether the singing is done to
rience. Furthermore, these guidelines education (or any intervention in a scien- achieve musical or other goals.
take into consideration cultural issues tific experiment). The learning approach Other researchers, such as Campbell
and direct learning along multicultural in music education provided in the ECE and Scott-Kassner (1995), view holistic
lines. However, the practice of music Service Standard Guidelines takes a holis- education more broadly. Such an educa-
and movement in ECEs falls far short of tic learning stance (Government of Kenya tion, according to them, addresses all
the curriculum requirements. This indi- 2006b), which is in line with both the areas of a childs development, whether
cates a gap that needs to be addressed indigenous societal use of music in every- intellectual, emotional, physical, or
to bridge the distance between require- day life and Akunos (2005) promotion of spiritual. This does not contradict Pri-
ments and practice. musics function as a key to understanding mos (1998), nor does it, in a general
African music. Holistic music education sense, contradict the practice in Kenyan
Teaching Approaches should begin with the teachers attention ECE centers. It merely draws our atten-
Published in 2006, the book- to the contributing and resultant factors; tion to education as being for the benefit
let ECE Service Standard Guidelines music education should be treated as a of the whole child.
operationalize[s] the National ECD discipline through which a child receives The policies governing the afore-
(Early Childhood Development) Policy an all-encompassing education. mentioned stance are passive in nature,
Framework . . . to provide quality acces- An investigation into the use of music accepting the status quo. In this case,
sible and equitable ECD services for in Kenyan ECEs reveals that most teach- local realities may provide clues to
young children (Government of Kenya ers reported that they teach music all the policy reform, inasmuch as traditional
2006c, vi). Four approaches to educa- time (Andango 2007). This statement, Kenyan childrens music, with its char-
tional activities in ECE included in the viewed from the perspective of a special- acteristic spontaneity, provides infinite
booklet are holistic learning, child-cen- ist music educator using the reductionist opportunities for child involvement.
tered teaching/learning, learning through theory to break down music education Such music making yields holistic
play . . . and use of the language of the into Western music components (such as learning because children sing, move,
catchment area before gradual introduc- rhythmic patterns and melodic contours), and respond to music from diverse cul-
tion of other languages (Government of appears to simplify music education. How- tures. The NACECE curriculum should,
Kenya 2006b, 15). Application of these ever, on further reflection, the teacher who therefore, stress such music benefits for
broad statements to the music education responds thus views music from a holistic a holistic music education.
practice as described in the ECE cur- perspective when she uses it to intro-
riculum should result in rich musical duce lessons, change from one activity to A child-centered methodology. A child-
experiences in school. An analysis of another, count, develop language skills, centered approach to learning is fea-

48 Arts Education Policy Review

tured in the official ECE curriculum (Government of Kenya 2006b) but is socialization through learning to share.
and although the definition of child- seldom followed in most ECEs in Kenya, Defined this way, play becomes a means
centeredness does not directly match particularly in music education. In music to holistic development.
that advocated by the discovery-based and movement sessions enacted in the Most childrens songs from Kenya, as
Montessori method (Essa 2003), there field, there is little evidence of a child- is the case regionally and even globally,
are elements that do match with cul- centered approach to learning singing present seemingly limitless opportuni-
turally sensitive local practices. Teach- games and dances, the usual musical ties for play. Akuno (2005) classified
ers using the curriculum are expected activities. Teachers frequently take the childrens songs from Kenya into six
to give children many opportunities to lead roles, occasionally delegating to categories. The first included activity
learn by discovery. Historically, children children (usually the same children), but or action songs, which involve activity
seldom interacted with adults except in there is a lot more that could happen. centered around community social roles.
the evening at the fireside as supper Culturally, adults are seen as leaders for Such songs are therefore gender-specific
was cooking. Then, stories were told the young; this perspective may be the to some extent. Agak (ctd. in Mans
both before supper to keep little ones reason for the preponderance of teacher- et al. 2003) concurred with this and
awake until the meal and after supper centered instruction. provides an example of a song, Dayo
when they got their lesson for the day The current structure of music and Luongi from the Luo community of
through a story. At such times, a child movement sessions in ECE, in which Kenya, which is about winnowing mil-
might have discovered that fire burns the entire school, both children and let. Girls, who are culturally expected to
when he or she insisted on touching a teachers, forms a big circle and per- participate in such an activity, perform
hot pot. Such learning through discov- forms music and movement activities, is the song. Action songs also serve as
ery was acceptable, and parents applied a great tool for socialization but some- educational media because they ridicule
it to the extent that it did not result in what restrictive for applications of the vice and commend virtue (Akuno). As
serious consequences. The use of song child-centered approach. This arrange- children engage in such songs, they
to teach moral lessons also allowed for ment during performances suggests understand not only the implicit struc-
discovery because children used the local cultural influence because commu- tural form of music, but also social roles
self-initiated repetition of these learned nal music activities in traditional society and moral issues through play.
melodic and narrative cultural artifacts were the norm. Alternatively, this large- The second category Akuno (2005)
as resources for pondering textual con- scale arrangement could also stem from designated was singing games. These
tent. Older children discovered much less child-centered teacher preparation songs place equal emphasis on song
about nature as they ran errands for their or teachers tendencies to act in the and play because both activities are of
parents or herded livestock. dominating role. To remedy the situa- equal weight in the performance. Activ-
Music in ECE should be taught with tion, teachers can divide the group and ities such as clapping, stone passing, or
the same approach of allowing children give each subgroup a different activity, embodiment of movement (such as the
to discover. Young children discover the which can then be rotated among the writhing of a python or the action of
potential in their voices and in their bod- subgroups intermittently. They can also weaving a basket) encompass the most
ies as they respond to musical cues and develop song leaders by encouraging common types in this genre (Akuno;
discover various ways of singing and the children to act as soloists in call and Mans et al. 2003). The nature of the
moving to music. These are effective response songs. Such strategies would songs as intensified speech endears
ways of developing rhythmic sensibili- create an atmosphere that encourages them to children, yet they also contain
ties and self-knowledge. As they engage discovery by the children. much in the way of education such as
in a song requiring them to take a lead creativity, physical development, social
part, children can discover their lead- Learning through play. In some cul- development, and performance skills,
ership skills or other aspects of their tures, both children and adults engage in among other attributes.
characters that may not be visible during play, although of different varieties and The third category is fable songs,
other learning activities. This is also a separately (Mans et al. 2003). According which are incorporated into folktales
great way for teachers to understand the to Manani (1993), play is a vital activity or fables. Most of them center on vic-
children they teach, so as to know how to in which children learn what no one can tims and their captors. They are typi-
better address their individual needs. teach them. He also defines the roles cally performed in the evening, around
Marsh and Young (2006) observe that, of play in the childs life as a means the fireside. They are usually long and
musically speaking, a difference exists of cultivating (a) the survival instinct serve as educational tools in addition to
between teacher-centered and child- through coping with the environment; enhancing imagination. The fourth cate-
centered learning. The response of the (b) physical development through mus- gory is learning songs. These songs usu-
children to the learning situation is more cular strength and coordination; (c) cog- ally describe animals, birds, plants, and
productive if child centered. This approach nitive development through acquisition other phenomena in the childs environ-
to teaching and learning is recommended of new concepts; (d) communication ment. They are intended to teach facts
in the ECE Service Standard Guidelines through language development; and (e) about the childs world.

Vol. 109, No. 2, November/December 2007 49

Cradlesongs, to praise a baby, make Revisiting Key Issues This poses a real threat to promotion
up the fifth category, and the last cate- Music from many cultures should be of Kenyan culture, one of the national
gory is lullabies, to lull a child to sleep. considered to give the child a variety of goals of education (KIE 2003, 27). It
These last two categories are sung to musical experiences. In Kenya, the mul- also makes void the efforts already
children but are also used to intro- ticultural setting provides a background made by NACECE to collate materials
duce babies to music. Another genre ready for such experiences. Yet, this has (songs, stories, rhymes, and sayings)
of childrens music is the chant. Found not been explored as it should be. Mul- from twenty-three of the forty-two eth-
in most cultures, chants provide oppor- ticultural music education should be nic groups for use in ECE (KIE 2002).
tunities for children to develop rhyth- regarded as an avenue for understanding These materials are rarely used. Curric-
mic sensibilities and creativity through the way of life of other cultures within ulum developers validated this finding
imaginatively playing with sounds and and outside of Kenya. by citing examples of private schools in
rhymes and adding original lines to the Furthermore, many practices in music some rural areas in which parents insist
existing material. education cut across cultures globally. on English as the language of instruc-
Childrens music as depicted ear- Inevitably, global influences have infil- tion for their children. Subsequently,
lier provides a rich avenue for learn- trated local music educational practices, NACECE is strongly considering trans-
ing through play. Mans et al. (2003) such as the language in which music lating the materials to English to enable
cited the cognitive benefits as one rea- is performed. In Kenya, English songs more teachers to use them. This lan-
son learning through play should be and games have been popular in ECE guage policy may lead to certain defi-
adopted, a position already stated by since its inception. Aspects of Western ciencies: urban children may entirely
Manani (1993). During play, according culture that form the textual basis of miss out on the experience of singing
to Mans et al., children make music the music and styles of moving to the in Kenyan languages, whereas parents
deliberately. They also have to know the music are also acquired in the process in rural areas, in which these languages
rules of the game and abide by them. of performance. This is gratifying to the are spoken and whose heritage is richly
The multiple ways of performance as music educator, who constantly seeks represented in childrens songs, may
they sing, move, and coordinate with opportunities for holism in music edu- completely abandon the use of such
each other are challenging, thereby con- cation. This holism is necessary because ethnic songs. Policymakers should take
tributing to cognitive development. Art- urbanization and globalization are real time to reconsider the role of each of the
istry is another important characteristic phenomena in the twenty-first century, three languages (vernacular, English,
learned through (musical) play. Chil- and few homogeneous groups will be and Kiswahili) for Kenyans. As Kingei
dren display high levels of skill in their found in any one geographical region. (2002) postulates, parents and teachers
performances that can be translated into Interculturalism and multiculturalism must view multilingualism and multi-
effective and meaningful arts education are, therefore, providing many opportu- culturalism as assets rather than liabili-
(Mans et al.). nities for holism in music education. ties to development and assign bigger
Despite these demonstrated possi- One of the most profound policy issues roles to African languages, cultures, and
bilities for learning through play, the that directly affect music education is the music in ECE.
practice in Kenyan ECE indicates that language of instruction in the preschools In summary, from the analysis of
this richness has not been captured in that aim to cater to multi-ethnicity and mul- approaches to music education in light
education, a situation echoed by Mans ticulturalism. As discussed earlier, multi- of curricula requirements, it is evident
et al. (2003), in reference to Namibia, culturalism and uniculturalism in different that the local realities point to current
Ghana, and Kenya. According to them, parts of the country have influenced not policy reform needed to bring Kenyan
teachers choose to teach more global, only language policy in ECE but also the ECE music education more closely
popular, or classical genres of music entire system of socialization at this level aligned with the key issues: (a) the
in a bid to cater to the multicultural of education. This difference in the use of need for a more specific policy to guide
population of their schools. They argue language, between the urban and the rural teaching of music and (b) the signifi-
that play in music allows children to on one hand and between different regions cance of including multiculturalism and
explore their own and other cultural on the other, matches the choice and range creativity in music teacher training. We
forms. Kenyan teachers, in our experi- of music. Although nursery rhymes in offer specific recommendations in the
ence, also tend to justify the exclusion English and Western instrumentation are a following section.
of Kenyan traditional music for the common feature of the urban centers, eth-
same reason. A reorientation of ECE nic melodies, dance, movement, and the Recommendations
teachers into the benefits of Kenyan use of traditional instruments are widely
traditional childrens songs would pro- used in the rural areas. However, with Harmonization of Roles between
vide a solution to the problem. The growing media influence and improved Ministry of Education, Local
most effective time to supply this reori- exchange between rural and urban areas, Authorities, and Community
entation would be in the course of their the use of indigenous music in ECE is Good policies, such as partnership
training sessions. rapidly eroding. and decentralization, have not been as

50 Arts Education Policy Review

effective in providing a framework for standardized as the pressures of the to preserve childrens heritage for pos-
ECE in Kenya as they were intended. education system catch up with the terity, documentation of stories, sayings,
This has been discussed in many forums preschool. However, the multicultural songs, and rhymes among the forty-two
(see KIE 2002) and it is clear that the approach to learning should be empha- cultures must be treated as a priority.
main drawback to their realization lies sized and entrenched into policy to guard
in the lack of clear guidelines on the the development of native Kenyan lan- Conclusion
roles of the central government, local guages in particular. Versatility in speak- In Kenya, early childhood music educa-
authorities, and the local community in ing different languages and exposure to tion is an integral part of the fabric of soci-
the management and sustainability of ethnic childrens songs must be seen as ety. However, because music has always
ECEs. Without streamlining the respon- an asset and duly used for this benefit, held a utilitarian rather than educational
sibilities of these stakeholders in the rather than perceived as an obstacle to function in Kenyan culture, teachers and
process of ECE, gains in teaching, train- learning for Kenyan children. Research policymakers have difficulty regarding
ing, and all other activities will continue in this area is needed to provide con- music and movement as a discipline, a
to be compromised. The government vincing evidence to stakeholders. problem experienced in many countries
should look into this matter with expe- globally (Campbell and Scott-Kassner
diency for ECE to move forward in real- Provision of Appropriate Resources for 1995). This view of music has hampered
izing educational goals. Music Teaching effective enactment of the curriculum and
Both the training syllabi for certificate impeded the progress of music education
Strengthening of Teacher-Training and diploma ECE teachers developed at on a national scale. However, there is
Program NACECE indicate that children are sup- hope that, with new practices such as the
There is a gap between teacher prepa- posed to learn to play simple music instru- one implemented in 2007 requiring ECE
ration and the expectations stated in ments. Indeed, simple instruments are centers to participate in the annual Kenya
the curricula for training ECE teachers an asset in cultivating appreciation for Music Festival and the National Drama
(Government of Kenya 2005a, 2006a). music as well as developing rhythmic and Festival, the arts will constitute the vital
To realize the stated objectives of music coordination skills. However, little, if any, lifeblood of ECE (Kilonzi 1998).
education, it is paramount to invest evidence of use of instruments is seen in Most teachers appreciate some musi-
more human and material resources in classrooms. Most rooms in ECE centers cal training, which the government
teacher training, especially in building do not possess any music instruments, should take seriously. Too many oppor-
rudimentary musicianship competen- even those made from localized materi- tunities for developing young musicians
cies. At the two existing levels of train- als. Teachers cite lack of time to make are lost because teachers with limited
ing (certificate and diploma), there is the instruments as the main hindrance. knowledge and untapped sensitivity
need for at least two weekly sessions for To ensure that children benefit from rich fail to be with the children (Custodero
music and movement, despite time con- musical experiences, the part of NACECE 2005) in their discovery of music. They
straints because of much subject mat- curriculum that advocates for use of local- also unknowingly suppress childrens
ter. Most teachers attending the training ized learning materials and resources musical development by limiting oppor-
have had little or no previous experi- needs strengthening to entrench the prac- tunities for self-discovery and exper-
ence with music; thus, they need basic tice of instrument construction and the use imentation in music. With a musical
skills of music reading, writing, and of the constructed instruments in the exist- background for the teachers, a written
performance. They need to learn how ing music and movement sessions. tradition may complement the oral tra-
to use localized materials to construct dition that has served Kenya well but
simple musical instruments and how to Documentation of Local Music faces challenges, especially regarding
strategically select appropriate music Teaching Materials the storage of its rich traditions.
resources for ages two to six years. This The localized materials collected at Finally, at policy level, basic life
is the only way music could assume a NACECE lie idle because they are only issues are the main impediments to the
central place in enriching early child- in text form, without any musical nota- realization of ECE, including music.
hood learning experiences. The most tion. This renders them inaccessible to Although it is a matter of concern to
cost effective way to train teachers in teachers who do not know the songs. have an ECE music policy, it would
music is to network with universities A project to notate the music started be irrational to lay focus on this, when
that have existing music programs; they but was never realized. Notation of the fewer than 40 percent of the children in
could provide staff to train the teachers music is important for long-term pres- Kenya are enrolled in ECE programs.
in basic music knowledge. ervation and access by musically literate The government and the people of
people, but it would still be inacces- Kenya must squarely address poverty,
Emphasis on Language Heritage and sible to the majority of ECE teachers, cultural dynamics, and the right of every
Music in Multiculturalism who cannot read music. For the teach- child to education to truly represent the
Language of instruction in preschools ers immediate use, the music should be beauty and promise that Kenya holds
is certainly becoming more and more audio recorded. To meet the urgent need for upcoming generations.

Vol. 109, No. 2, November/December 2007 51

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52 Arts Education Policy Review