Child-friendly schools (CFS)
The child-friendly schools model is holistic, but simple one at heart: Schools should operate in the best interests of the child and for all children. They are designed and run in a way that ensures that all children can learn in a safe, healthy, secure, stimulating and protected environment.
Using the human- and child-rights principles, the CFS approach addresses the total needs of the child as a learner so that the student can develop his or her full potential. It is not a "one-size-fits-all" model though, and the way child-friendly schools are built and operate may differ from country to country. The focus throughout, however, is on child-centred education with teachers who are trained accordingly, backed by adequate resources and appropriate physical, emotional and social conditions for learning. The approach is multi-sectoral and includes health, nutrition, water and sanitation as well as protection.
UNICEF in Action
UNICEF promotes the CFS approach across Eastern and Southern Africa. Child-friendly schools are:
Rights-based and inclusive: Every child-friendly school proactively seeks out-of-school children and encourages them to enrol, irrespective of gender, race, ability or social status.
Gender-sensitive: They promote equality and equity in enrolment and achievement among girls and boys by eliminating gender stereotyping. They guarantee gender-sensitive facilities, curricula and textbooks.
Safe and protective: They ensure that all children can learn in a safe and protective environment. This is increasingly supported by strong violence-prevention policies and innovative mechanisms that allow pupils to report abuse.
Community-engaged: A child-friendly school is embedded in its local community, encouraging partnerships among parents, teachers and children in all aspects of the education process.
Academically effective: Teachers at a child-friendly school encourage classroom participation and adopt interactive, child-centred, gender-sensitive and effective teaching methods. This approach provides children with relevant knowledge and skills not just for surviving but also for thriving in life.
Health-promoting: Child-friendly schooling also promotes the physical and emotional health of children by meeting key nutritional and healthcare needs through appropriate school meals and health checks, including regular immunization and de-worming campaigns and the provision of vitamin A supplements.
Results for Children
Notably, more and more countries in this region are using the CFS framework strategically both at field and policy levels. UNICEF and partners support governments in creating schools and learning spaces that are in harmony with the CFS principles.
Countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania have established a set of minimum standards and indicators for quality education, which reflect the CFS principles. These principles have also helped enhance approaches to quality assurance in some countries and the development of national teacher training programmes in others. Many countries are using the CFS framework to develop teaching materials, manuals and other tools for improving, assessing and assuring the quality of education.
Since 2005, UNICEF has been organizing annual capacity development workshops on CFS to create a platform for participants from different countries, including its own staff, senior government officials, and other partners to exchange good practices and lessons learned in providing quality education to children.
In South Africa, the child-friendly schooling initiative reached 60 percent of targeted schools in 2009. The programme is being piloted in the country’s 585 worst performing schools. Other schools are added as the programme progresses. The target schools are marred by violence, poor academic performance and inadequate resources.
In Rwanda extra-curricular clubs called Tuseme (or ‘Speak Out’) provide a platform for students to gather in peer groups and share experiences and views. The Tuseme clubs put a special focus on HIV prevention. An integral part of the country’s child-friendly schooling programme is the teacher resource centres that help to empower educators and make them more responsive to, and supportive of the needs of their students.
In Malawi in 2009, 100,000 school children benefitted from activities that would transform their schools into child-friendly spaces of learning. Child-friendly infrastructure and resources for 313 schools, such as classrooms, separate latrines, teacher houses as well as teaching and learning materials, were built and provided during the year. In addition, 2,000 teachers were equipped with knowledge about the principles and practices of CFS. The teachers reach some 180,000 pupils throughout Malawi.
A key partner in promoting the CFS approach in select countries over the past years has been the “Schools for Africa” initiative, which was launched in 2004. This multi-country, multi-donor partnership involves UNICEF and its National Committees, the Nelson Mandela Foundation (South Africa) and the Hamburg Society for the Promotion of Democracy and International Law (Germany). By the end of 2009, the initiative had contributed more than US $80 million to the roll-out of the CFS approach benefiting more than 4 million children in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. During its second phase from 2010 to 2013, the initiative will be expanded to additional countries in Africa.