Child-friendly education (for all)
The concept behind child-friendly education (CFE) is simple at heart: Schools should operate in the best interests of the child. They should be designed and run in a way that ensures that all children can learn in a safe, healthy, secure, stimulating and protected environment.
The CFE approach focusses on the total needs of the child as a learner so that the student can develop his or her full potential. The goal throughout is to promote child-centred education with teachers who are trained accordingly, supported by adequate resources and appropriate physical, emotional and social conditions for learning. It integrates many other areas including health, nutrition, water and sanitation, as well as protection. CFE 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 diagram below describes the many inclusive elements that are central to child friendly education.
UNICEF in Action
UNICEF works with governments in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) to help them develop school systems that are child friendly to all children, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable. CFE principles are reflected in the development of national policies, plans and standards. The various dimensions of CFE in the diagram above are explained below:
Rights-based and inclusive: No child should be excluded from education because of his or her gender, race, culture, language, ability or social status. However, investments in education often miss their mark. Recent research, including Out-of-School Children’s Initiative (OOSCI) studies, carried out by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics suggest that efforts are often skewed in favour of children from better-off families and those who live in urban centres. Children living with disabilities, for example, remain invisible in many countries and belong to one of the most marginalized groups.
Gender-sensitive: A core principle of CFE is to make sure that both girls and boys learn in an environment that is free from gender bias and other forms of stereotyping. Education systems and schools should strive to provide gender-sensitive facilities, curricula and textbooks, while addressing issues such as gender-based violence and gender equality.
Safe and protective: CFE is supported by strong violence-prevention policies and innovative mechanisms that allow pupils to safely report abuse. This is particularly important when assisting children affected by natural and man-made emergencies.
Community-engaged: Effectiveness, transparency and accountability in schools are enhanced by strong partnerships between parents, teachers and children.
Academically effective: Teachers are the single most important resource in children’s education. CFE promotes purposeful teaching and learning, including interactive, child-centred and gender-sensitive teaching methods. Despite this, studies suggest that most children in ESAR are taught through highly didactic methods, and that teacher absenteeism and lack of training are also critical issues.
Health-promoting: Children cannot learn properly if they are sick, hungry or stressed. To bolster children’s capacity to learn, schools need to provide nutritional support, health checks, immunization, de-worming and vitamin A supplements. Access to water and sanitation in school is also a critical contributing factor to children’s well-being.
Results for Children
The following are key results in the region, which have been influenced by CFE principles:
With many governments struggling to allocate sufficient budget to ensure quality education for all, partnerships are critical. A key of such in promoting the CFE in select countries over the past years has been the “Schools for Africa” initiative. Launched in 2004, this multi-country, multi-donor partnership involves UNICEF and its National Committees, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and the Hamburg Society for the Promotion of Democracy and International Law (Germany).
To date, the initiative had contributed more than US$164 million, fulfilling the dreams of an education for 21 million children across 11 countries including those in ESAR, Angola, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. With its extraordinary success, the SFA initiative has since been expanded to West and Central Africa and Asia.