In itself, CSTL is not a new “policy” or “programme”. It is not intended to replace the numerous care and support initiatives that already exist to support vulnerable learners. Rather, it provides an overarching framework for the initiation, coordination and expansion of prevention, care and support activities: activities that aim ultimately, in all instances, to improve education outcomes. Equally important, CSTL does not propose a “one-size-fits-all” model, and so CSTL programmes differ in every country and every context. There are, however, some commonalities, including:

  • A vision or ideal situation that is country-specific and will guide strategies and plans
  • National, sub-national and school-level entry points and interventions
  • An “essential package” of care and support elements that can be applied across a variety of settings (such as in the example depicted below) that can accommodate a range of approaches to enable schools to respond to the needs of their learners within the parameters of the skills and resources available to their school community

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At school level, therefore, CSTL facilitates the development of processes that:

  • Identify and assess vulnerable learners, ensure that their material and basic survival needs are met (which would otherwise constitute barriers to them remaining in school), and monitor these learners over time
  • Make systems more effective for improved access to education and retention
  • Build capacity in teachers, caregivers and learners to cope with, and respond effectively to, a range of challenges
  • Provide (or facilitate access to) HIV&AIDS education and services to vulnerable children and youth, especially girls, who have an increased exposure to risk
  • Promote greater community involvement and partnerships that assist and strengthen school communities
  • Improve coordination of referral and support systems and communication
  • Create learning environments that are gender-sensitive and that are safe and free from stigma, discrimination and abuse

At national and sub-national levels, the role of the Ministry of Education is to create an inclusive and enabling environment. This means mainstreaming care and support in appropriate ways across all components of the education system such as:

  • Governance and management
  • Policy planning and resourcing
  • Human resource development
  • Curriculum
  • Infrastructure
  • Structures and partnerships
  • Monitoring, through Education Management Information Systems