Switzerland assisting children to realize their rights to education, safety and protection

Article, 19.06.2017

The daily challenges facing learners from poor and vulnerable households in Southern Africa seldom make media headlines. With one-in-three children dropping out of school due the effects of HIV/AIDS or poverty – progress towards universal primary education has slowed in the region. For those who remain in school, the learning levels are not encouraging as a result of social, economic and cultural barriers.

Switzerland assisting children to realize their rights to education, safety and protection
Children play in front of a temporary classroom at Chingoli Primary School in Malawi. The Primary School was hit hard by the flooding in 2015/16 rainy season. Tents were set up to replace damaged classroom blocks. Switzerland Embassy in Zimbabwe

To appreciate better some of the challenges facing learners in the region, there is no better vantage point than in rural Malawi. Dropping in on one of the local primary schools one typically finds an average of 80 learners crammed in a class. Just a few will have textbooks. If school infrastructure is there, it is often rudimental and safety is a major concern.  

Malawi’s rural schools are a microcosm of a wider challenge facing learners in Southern Africa. Consequently, the Government of Switzerland through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is supporting the Media in Education Trust (MiET) Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat to provide quality education to children through the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) programme.

The main objective of the programme is to support Member States in SADC to strengthen and harmonise their policies and programmes in the education sector so as to compliment their traditional educational teaching mandate. As a result children and youth are expected to access comprehensive support services in their communities.

Encouraging results from the project

At the regional level, the major achievement of the programme has been the adoption of the CSTL policy framework which guides the implementation of care and support activities. The SADC Policy Framework on CSTL adopted in 2016 provides a non-prescriptive guidance for coordinating and implementing care and support services in all Member States. It also serves as a benchmark for monitoring and evaluating progress made by the countries in providing care and support to vulnerable children.

At the national level, the seven SADC Member States – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, implementing CSTL have promulgated national policies and are implementing programmes that comply with the SADC Policy Framework on CSTL in respect to the rights of marginalised groups of vulnerable children and youth.

At community level, various results have been realized. In Malawi, the programme is seeing school authorities, parents and learners acknowledging the transformation schools and the learners are experiencing as a result of the introduction of CSTL.

At Chingoli Primary School in rural Blantyre for example, teachers have successfully integrated care and support into the Life Skills curriculum, using various MiET Africa-developed resources. They have also acknowledged how CSTL is addressing social iniquities in the areas of gender based violence, HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights by integrating them to become part of the school curricula. Corporal punishment has also been replaced with positive disciplinary approaches.

Another significant result at the local level has been the decline in the number of dropouts in schools following the introduction of feeding schemes that involve the participation of parents who subsequently ensure that all children attend school including those with disabilities and orphans.

The CSTL programme was unanimously adopted by the Education Ministers of all Member States of SADC in July 2008 and is currently in its fourth phase of implementation. Results and experiences from the programme are shared with the other SADC Member States who have started implementing the programme with their own resources.