In December 2014, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation-funded (SDC) Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) initiative saw two new SADC Member States, Zimbabwe and Malawi, officially join the programme. Inception meetings in both countries took place in December and plans to commence intensive implementation were put in place, and will commence in 2015. Zimbabwe and Malawi join Mozambique, Zambia, DRC, South Africa and Swaziland, bringing the total number of countries intensively implementing CSTL to seven.
The CSTL programme was unanimously adopted by the Education Ministers of all Member States of SADC at a meeting in Zambia on 4 July 2008. This programme supports the Education Ministers to fulfil their commitments and intentions of providing quality education to all children. The programme was developed by the SADC Secretariat, in partnership with MIET AFRICA, UNESCO Regional Office and UNICEF ESARO, and provides a comprehensive approach to addressing the barriers to teaching and learning that are associated with health- and poverty-related challenges.
Building on the foundation of Schools as Centres of Care & Support, Zambia’s CSTL programme has grown the original project from 40 schools in two provinces, to 120 schools in five provinces; 15 schools were selected to participate in the baseline study.
CSTL in Zambia has resulted in improved participation of teachers and community members, bigger budget allocations for support activities and the formation of partnerships with key stakeholders – particularly in the areas of psychosocial support, nutrition and health, water and sanitation, safety and protection, infrastructure development, and teaching and learning materials. The CSTL essential package is being incorporated into the national standards and guidelines for improving the quality of education in Zambia, which will result in increased provision of these services.
Practical evidence of improved services includes the upgrading of infrastructure of five community schools. Previously, they were grass-thatched structures, but they have been provided with modern facilities and trained teachers – the result of which is increased enrolments.
Officially launched in Kinshasa in March 2010, the CSTL programme in DRC has seen growth in many areas, including advocacy, adaptation of CSTL tools to the national context, the organization of monitoring and the systematic collection of school data, participation of five schools in the Speak Out! campaign, and very importantly, multisectoral collaboration between Education and other relevant ministries and development partners. There has also been the chance to share ideas with other participating SADC Member Sates at regional meetings.
One vital lesson learnt has been that children who have been deprived of education in their early years can be successfully accommodated in the system’s School Remedy Centres. In addition, the registration age for girls has been raised from 6 to 8 years to allow for their possible late entry into school, thus encouraging parity between girls and boys. These initiatives ensure that many children will no longer be denied a basic education.
To achieve the aims of CSTL – improved attendance, retention and performance of all learners – Mozambique approached implementation through three strategies: strengthening the education system, providing care and support to learners, and involving communities and partners.
At the start, the main activities focused on conducting a situational analysis, and the documenting thereof, and then the examination of policies and intervention strategies on child support. These were followed by advocacy, the establishment of coordination units at central, provincial and district levels, the strengthening of support teams (school boards) in schools and various activities in schools, all of which were effected through coordinated, multisectoral interventions.
CSTL is currently being implemented in 14 baseline schools. It impacts directly on 20 634 students – 10 458 girls and 10 176 boys – of whom 40% are orphaned or otherwise vulnerable children, who benefit from the integration of care and support into the system.
Recognizing its role in the socioeconomic development of Swaziland, over the past few years the Ministry of Education (MoE) has made significant strides towards providing quality education at all levels, through both formal and non-formal strategies.
The Education and Training Sector Policy of 2011, and the resulting Strategic Plan (2010–2022), provides for free primary education (including the provision of text books), and ensures that issues such as HIV and AIDS and others are included in the Inqaba School Support Programme. As a result of the latter, a formal guidance and counselling syllabus has been introduced in schools, and guidelines on compiling School Development Plans have been produced. CSTL is incorporated in all these policies and plans.
The National Children’s Policy of 2009 is another demonstration of the commitment of the government of Swaziland to the wellbeing of children, and is actioned through the National Plan of Action for Children (2011–2015).