|© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1118/Kate Holt|
|Children attend a hygiene education class that is part of a UNICEF-supported water, sanitation and hygiene programme in a primary school in Naros Village, near the town of Lodwar, Rift Valley Province, Kenya.|
The child-friendly school (CFS) model is simple: it calls for schools to operate in the best interests of the child. Child-friendly educational environments must be safe, healthy and protective. They must be provided with trained teachers, adequate resources and appropriate physical, emotional and social conditions for learning.
Within a child-friendly school, children’s rights are protected and their voices are heard. The learning environment is a haven in which children can learn and grow and in which their identities and varied needs are respected. The CFS model promotes inclusiveness, gender sensitivity, tolerance, dignity and personal empowerment.
There is no single way to make a school child-friendly. Though the model may differ from country to country, in every culture a child-friendly school provides child-centred education in a safe, healthy and holistic environment.
Child-friendly environments build on the assets that children bring from their homes and communities, respecting their unique backgrounds and circumstances. The CFS model compensates for any shortcomings in the home or community that might impede a child’s ability to enrol in school, attend regularly or succeed in studies. For example, when learning is hampered by a lack of food, a school feeding programme can provide children the nutrition they need. In such circumstances it also serves as an incentive to stay in school, reinforcing its child-friendliness.
The CFS model also builds partnerships between schools and communities. Children have the right to be fully prepared to become active and productive citizens, so their learning must be linked to the conditions and needs of their community.
National governments can encourage the development of child-friendly schools by promoting free enrolment, prohibiting corporal punishment, encouraging the use of local languages in schools, integrating children with disabilities into mainstream schools, allowing pregnant students to complete their education, and implementing the right to education for children living with HIV and/or AIDS.
To ensure sustainability of the CFS approach, governments can work to infuse key elements of the CFS model into all aspects of the education system, including the processes and parameters that shape the system. This means that planning, implementation, financing, staffing, management, supervision, monitoring and evaluation of education in the country will intrinsically embrace the CFS model.
In the past decade, the CFS approach has become UNICEF’s preferred strategy for promoting quality education, even during emergencies. When emergencies strike, UNICEF provides school-in-a-box kits to temporary child-friendly learning spaces. The routine of going to school helps children recover from trauma while also keeping their education on track. Our success in implementing the CFS model depends on collaboration with international partners. Together, we work to ensure that all children – regardless of whether they attend school in a building, in a tent or under a tree – receive a rights-based, quality education.