Literature Review

In order to position the study within the wider context of what is known or not known regarding effective ways of providing care and support for vulnerable children through schools, a literature review was conducted. The literature addressing the many dimensions of children’s vulnerability across southern Africa and the rest of the continent is vast. This review includes literature addressing links between children and adolescents, vulnerability, HIV and AIDS, and access, retention and completion of schooling up to the end of secondary school.

Former Education Programme Manager

March 5th, 2013

In order to position the study within the wider context of what is known or not known regarding effective ways of providing care and support for vulnerable children through schools, a literature review was conducted. The literature addressing the many dimensions of children’s vulnerability across southern Africa and the rest of the continent is vast. This review includes literature addressing links between children and adolescents, vulnerability, HIV and AIDS, and access, retention and completion of schooling up to the end of secondary school.

Primary searches for scholarly articles were conducted using Ebsco and other electronic databases available through the University of the Witwatersrand’s Research Portal. More general internet searches were used to capture literature from United Nations (UN) agencies, international, regional and local organisations. The main search terms were orphaned and vulnerable children, OVC, education or schooling, care and support, or HIV and AIDS. References lists within each article or report were then used to extend the scope of the search.

The key questions guiding the literature review were:

a)    What is the consensus on terminology to identify the target group?

b)    What is the target group?

c)     What are the vulnerability factors with significant influence on educational experience of the target group?

d)    What interventions are common and what is the evidence of their effectiveness in relation to educational accessibility and vulnerability factors for children?

e)    What is the state of evidence of effectiveness at a policy level?

f)     What best-practice collections are available to guide school-based interventions for OVC?

2.0.         Findings

The findings of the review are organised according to sub-topics informing the purpose of the research. The search was greatly assisted by two recently completed reviews on similar topics (SADC 2010a; MIET 2010).

2.0.1.     Defining the target population

Responses to children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS have been developing for almost two decades. Defining what types of children these interventions target has been an evolving challenge. Already, at the beginning of the last decade, Boler and Carroll (2003) described the OVC category as problematic since both the centre and the boundaries of the category were loosely defined. Children with different types of vulnerabilities experienced life challenges in relation to their well-being in equally different ways. To be conceptually useful, sub-categories of vulnerable children needed to be identified and specifically tracked in order to understand how vulnerability arises and is perpetuated in the lived experience of a child.

While outlining the problem of conceptually loose terminology for identifying appropriate target groups of children in need of interventions, these authors also argued that:

…it is important to retain some definition of children who are affected by the AIDS epidemic, whilst acknowledging that the impact of the epidemic on children is multi-faceted. Therefore, a spectrum of vulnerability unfolds with individual children falling under multiple areas of disadvantage. Consequently, a spectrum of educational disadvantage also unfolds, and an array of educational responses is needed.

Too loose a usage of the term OVC can obscure the distinct needs of actual children and can subsequently lead to poorly designed, poorly targeted and poorly understood interventions aiming to address the ‘multiple areas of disadvantage’ that children in need of assistance experience.

On a similar theme, Skinner et al. (2006) noted that, initially, children targeted for support were grouped under the very broad umbrella of OVC. While social status as an orphan, either single or double, was straightforward to define, this did not capture the additional impacts of HIV and AIDS that made children vulnerable in general. As part of the preparation for a multi-country study on OVC interventions, the authors explored both the theoretical and practical concepts for ‘orphans’ and ‘vulnerable children’ among organisations targeting OVC in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. They arrived at the following functional definitions for identifying orphans and other vulnerable children:

A vulnerable child was seen as someone who has little or no access to basic needs or rights. They may have both parents, but the child might be compromised in other ways. The definition of vulnerability was felt to reflect certain aspects of the context of the child.

As for the term orphan, the researchers found the following:

An orphan is a child who has lost either one or both parents. The remainder of the definition needs to centre around three core areas. The relative importance of each will be defined by context: Material problems, including access to money, food, clothing, shelter, health care and education; Emotional problems, including experience of caring, love, support, space to grieve and containment of emotions; Social problems, including lack of a supportive peer group, of role models to follow, stigma or of guidance in difficult situations, and risks in the immediate environment; Vulnerability may be defined according to what is immediately seen in a situation and what is more easily measurable.

Given the multiple factors within the social context where children become orphaned or vulnerable, definitions require flexibility so that they can be both context dependent and context specific. The broad categories of material, emotional, and social challenges added on to a child’s social status as an orphan improve the understanding of the vulnerability of this group of children and can refine the targeting process within efforts to provide assistance.

Definitions of OVC can be used for both analytical and operational purposes. According to Sherr et al. (2008), there should be careful distinctions between these two uses of OVC terminology:

It is important that definitions for evidence gathering are not confused with definitions for support and resources. The political need for inclusion of a wide range of children into the provision arena has ensured that many children benefit from support and also stigma is avoided.

While within a research frame, more precise definitions of children who are vulnerable are needed, these should not necessarily be replicated within the operational domain. Confusion within the two spheres risks excluding vulnerable children from interventions that would assist them.

According to Kendall (2008), how children are identified as vulnerable, and the terms used to define them as such, are connected to a wider web of meanings and relationships that may, in some situations, increase rather than alleviate vulnerability:

Evidence and analysis presented in this paper and elsewhere suggest that current discourses and frameworks may at times operate in practice to make the lives of children targeted by development interventions harder and less secure.

This extends to the ‘universalist’ framing of children’s realities within the context of a borderless conception of children’s rights:

The child’s experiences are therefore viewed through the lens of this particular rights framework, making visible those aspects of their experiences that relate to these rights, but obscuring those that do not. Because of the framing of children as rights holders and adults as duty-bearers, if a child’s current life situation does not guarantee their rights, then it is the duty of adults, not the right of the child, to change the child’s life situation.

Such framing has the tendency to place children in a passive position as needing sustenance and support from service providers or adults. At worst, it can ‘de-centre’ the lived experiences of children from the perspective of the child itself. Kendall (2008) nevertheless identifies positive trends in naming and framing the approach to children and vulnerability:

There is a growing call to shift from a model of individual vulnerability to one of communal or geographic vulnerability in which all members of a heavily AIDS-affected community are targeted for programming....Such models view children as members of multi-generational communities.

As a result of this shift, a broader analysis and understanding of the vulnerability of children is emerging. Consensus is growing that orphanhood on its own is not necessarily a marker of vulnerability. Variables such as poverty, sero-status, physical ability, household composition and gender have greater predictive value for identifying and assessing degrees of childhood vulnerability and their consequent needs for assistance. In a sense, then, a vulnerable child could be defined as one that is disadvantaged in distinct and tangible ways on two or more dimensions of children’s vulnerability – orphaned and destitute, for example, or destitute and disabled.

2.0.2.     Factors affecting children’s access to education

In support of Kendall’s (2008) conclusions, evidence is emerging about which aspects of children’s vulnerability interfere with access to education and successful attainment of educational goals. In a study on the impact of the introduction of free primary education in Lesotho, a World Bank (2005) research team found that the economic or wealth status of the child, for example, affected participation in education regardless of social status as orphan or non-orphan. The study found that, in 2002, 10 percent of 6 to 14-year-old children had never been in school. For boys the proportion was 13 percent; for girls it was 7 percent. However, between wealth quintiles, a 10 percent difference emerged for overall non-attendance in this age group. Moreover, it appeared that orphanhood itself did not prevent children from going to school as 10.6 percent of orphans and 10.4 percent of other children had never been in school.

The same study found that other factors had a greater influence on children’s participation in education. The educational attainment of the head of the household predicted school attendance in that the lower the attainment, the less likely children were to be in school. Children from poor households were less likely to attend school than others. The distance to the nearest school was also found to have a significant influence on school attendance. Furthermore, while orphans and non-orphans had similar rates of participation in education, orphans were more likely to drop out. Examining on-going barriers to participation in education in Lesotho, more than five years after the introduction of free primary education, Nyabanyaba (2009) showed that there continued to be high repetition rates, high drop-out rates, and a significant portion of school-aged children who did not attend school. The impact of HIV was one of the causes of this but it was really the on-going effect of poverty and deprivation that was the more proximal cause.

In a study of ten sub-Saharan countries, using data from demographic and health surveys, Case et al. (2004) made similar findings that, “...gaps between orphans and non-orphans are dwarfed by gaps in enrolment between poor and non-poor children.”

In an earlier study, Filmer and Pritchett (1999) demonstrated that enormous differences arise with regard to wealth status and school enrolment. Despite a considerable variation across the 35 countries included in their analysis, they constantly found that poor children either begin school and drop out in droves, or never attend school at all.

Within the household (rather than between households), differences in school participation can arise between orphans and non-orphans. Case et al. (2004) found that orphans were less likely to be attending school than non-orphans within the same households because of differences of investment in children’s education. The larger the distance in kinship between a child and the household head, the lower the investment and the greater the likelihood of not being in school:  

As a general pattern, the probability of school enrolment is inversely proportional to the degree of relatedness of the child to the household head – whether the child is an orphan or not.

Kurzinger (2008), using data on 20,000 children in 7,000 households in Tanzania and Burkina Faso, found that variables such as age, religion, family of origin, the relationship between the child and the head of household, and the dependence ratio of the household better explained differences in educational participation more than orphan status alone. Overall, no significant difference was observed in Tanzania between orphans and non-orphans regarding school enrolment or school delay. Similarly in Burkina Faso, orphans were no less likely than other children to be enrolled in school.

Similar findings arose for Mishra et al. (2007) in Kenya, but their study also demonstrated that children living with single mothers were likely to be more disadvantaged than other children on all indicators. Within South Africa, Operario et al. (2008) found that there was a reduced likelihood of school attendance and completion, particularly for females, in households experiencing the death of either parent. Oleke (2007) found that, in Uganda, the more elderly the heads of households, the more likely that all children would be in school compared to younger household heads. Moreover, households headed by widowed or single females were more likely to have all children in school than married females. In focus group discussions with caregivers, who were 50 years or older and caring for school-aged children, Kakooza and Kimumna (2005) found that maintaining support for children’s participation in school was paramount for this group.

In earlier research in eastern Zimbabwe, Nyamukapa, Foster and Gregson (2003) documented the catastrophic impact of the death of the mother on children’s access to education in comparison to the death of the father or of both parents within a household. These observations were subsequently affirmed in additional research (Nyamukapa and Gregson 2005) where it was observed that maternal orphans, rather than paternal or double orphans, continued to have lower school enrolment rates. The authors concluded that low primary school completion among maternal orphans must result from the lack of support from fathers and stepmothers, as well as other less prominent factors related to household composition, and social or economic status. Bhargava (2005), in an assessment of 1,000 children in Ethiopia whose households had experienced maternal death, found that in these settings, “variables such as income, good feeding and clothing conditions were significant predictors of school participation.” Conversely, the presence (or absence) of the father, household income, feeding and clothing conditions, and attitude of the fostering family were found to be significant inhibitors to school participation for dependent children. Similar findings were made by Kobiane, Calve and Marcoux (2005) using data from Burkina Faso, and Evans and Miguel (2007) in Kenya.

In a systematic review conducted by Richter et al. (2008), the researchers found that in a significant proportion of the published literature, methodological gaps and challenges significantly discounted the strength and scope of what the studies claimed to have found in terms of understanding children’s vulnerability factors and their influence on access and completion of educational programmes. Of the 15 studies included in the review with acceptable methodologies, most identified negative impacts on some aspect of education, whether it was enrolment, attendance, performance or completion, due to children’s status as orphans. Gender, poverty, and age had confounding effects meaning that when combined with a child’s status as an orphan, the negative impact on education increased.

Finally, as this evidence has emerged of the multi-factorial nature of the vulnerability, there is growing consensus to move away from a too narrow targeting of OVC interventions, both because not all orphans are vulnerable and because targeting orphans specifically risks identifying and consequently stigmatising children with this social status. As more and more experience has been gained with social and child protection schemes, using extreme poverty with one or two other factors, such as food security or kinship relations, appears to identify more clearly those children in need without the problem of linking children so explicitly to HIV and AIDS in their social environment. The evidence is legion that identifying children as orphans and either infected or affected by HIV and AIDS brings upon them stigma and discrimination in both the educational and community settings.

2.0.3.     Interventions and evidence of effectiveness

With regard to efforts to address, mitigate and resolve children’s vulnerability and the barriers to participating in education that arise from this, a large range of interventions have been documented (Subararo and Koury 2004, O’Grady et al. 2008, UNICEF 2009). As noted previously, Richter et al. (2008) have systematically reviewed this literature and pointed out that in many instances a lack of evidence underpinning the development and implementation of interventions compromised any assessment of their effectiveness: “Overall, there is very weak evidence to support programming, with only a small minority of studies having sufficient methodological rigor to support the conclusions drawn.” Schenk (2007), in focusing specifically on evidence of effectiveness for community-based programmes, similarly noted that:

...existing evidence on the evaluation of community programmes addressing the circumstances of children and families affected by HIV is undermined by variable methodologies and inconsistent data quality.

There are, nevertheless, a significant number and type of interventions profiled within the published literature to provide at least some guidance on what have emerged as more effective approaches than others.

In the study by Oleke (2007), it was found that households receiving external support were more likely to have all orphans under their care in school. This finding occurred in the midst of evidence showing that the range of barriers to school attendance and school performance is large and includes children being obligated to work and lack of food, even when the education itself is free. Consequently, it was recommended that more interventions involving the provision of practical support were needed, at least in the short term, to enable impoverished children to attend and remain in school.

Foster (2002) put more emphasis on addressing the psycho-social needs of vulnerable children as part of interventions to assist them. In a small, in-depth analysis of 20 children between 10 and 14 years old, Chitiyo (2008) concluded that, “A concoction of challenges like anxiety, grief, trauma, depression, stigma and discrimination makes OVC’s educational needs exceptional.” The author recommended that a special curriculum for OVC be developed with an emphasis on life-skills, and practical skills for daily living. It was also recommended that this curriculum address all four areas of psycho-social support, including emotional, social, spiritual and physical well-being. However, these recommendations were tentative since at the time there was “...a dearth of research to identify [effective] intervention strategies for this special group of children.”

In relation to school curricula, as well as the way that formal education programmes are organised, Robson and Sylvester (2007), in their study of four high prevalence schools in rural Zambia, assessed the impact of HIV and AIDS on teachers, students and the educational system. The study found that the inflexibility of schools’ practical organisation (class timetable and yearly schedule of semesters) impeded changes that could make it easier for OVC to access education. The study noted that simple measures such as the provision of lunches, books and pencils could prevent absence or dropout. The study also found that better collaboration between agencies was essential so that students affected by HIV and AIDS, who had difficulty in attending school, could be provided for with alternative and more flexible ways to learn.

Nordtveit (2008) came to similar conclusions. That study probed the need to provide comprehensive or holistic responses and recommended coupling alternative, or non-formal educational opportunities with other services or interventions addressing poverty and deprivation. In a similar vein, the focus on the role of ‘open, distant and flexible learning’ (ODFL) has been identified as another viable approach to creating more opportunities for vulnerable children to participate in educational programmes (Boler and Caroll 2003, Nyabanyaba 2008, Pridmore 2007).

Poulsen (2006) in studying the impact of HIV and AIDS on communities in Free State Province in South Africa and Swaziland, in particular its effect on school attendance, found that children were dropping out of school in large numbers even in the midst of interventions designed to support their continued attendance. The study concluded that pervasive, poverty-related factors influencing the rate of dropping out were exacerbated by the impact of HIV and AIDS. It was also noted that there was a gender dimension in the sense that such poverty-related impacts and school-related barriers affected female children and adolescents more than their male counterparts. The study concluded that interventions to assist children in this context must address not only financial constraints to schooling but also less direct and less obvious barriers related to gender and poverty.

Foster (2008) has assessed and found value for vulnerable children in well-coordinated and well-executed interagency responses. Such a finding has been echoed time and time again given the range and complexity of contexts where children find themselves in situations of severe to extreme vulnerability. Such complexity has led a growing number of countries and researchers to test social cash transfer schemes as a way of mitigating the complexity of poverty and deprivation (Save the Children UK 2009). South Africa, Malawi and Lesotho are among a number of southern African countries implementing such schemes. Richter et al. (2008) in their review noted that there was early, emerging evidence of sustained impact. This was particularly the case with regard to increases in school enrolment, retention and achievement for children from households receiving the cash transfers.

Within schools themselves, there is no doubt that the needs of vulnerable children place additional demands on teachers and that the challenges that HIV imposes within school settings has a dual effect on teachers. Firstly, teachers experience the greatest burden within schools in terms of providing support, both material and psycho-social, to children in their classrooms. Teachers in general experience anxiety about the overwhelming number of children in need, their lack of referral knowledge, options for training, HIV/AIDS-related secrecy and discrimination and stress (MIET 2010). For those that take on the role of providing assistance, there can be increased job fulfilment even when this role compromises other spheres of their lives, especially if they are personally affected by HIV and AIDS. Some training materials have incorporated this concern about balance and role confusion when individuals take on roles as teachers and as parents in both the institutional and household settings (REPSSI 2007). There is a growing awareness of the need for more concrete action to provide more support to teachers in their critical role with respect to, firstly, identifying vulnerable children and, secondly, proving care and support within a more holistic learning environment in the classroom (Boler and Caroll 2003; MIET 2010).

Secondly, teachers may themselves be HIV-positive or be living in households with HIV-positive members. Experience to-date suggests that teachers on the whole do not perceive their professional environment as supportive (Global Campaign for Education 2005, Bundy et al. 2009). Most have no intention of disclosing their status to either colleagues or management for fear of stigma and discrimination. This has been shown to cause chronic absenteeism as teachers struggle to manage their HIV disease. There is a strongly voiced sense that, within learning institutions, not enough is being done by ministries of education to create a more supportive environment for addressing all aspects of HIV and AIDS, not just the needs of HIV-affected teachers. Research conducted by the South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) showed that many school leaders have begun to intuitively respond to the increasingly complex challenges they face in the context of the AIDS pandemic by creating networks of support for learners around their schools (Marneweck et al. 2008). The study also showed that many schools had started implementing learner support programmes around nutrition, aftercare and counselling. According to the research, “in some schools, as a result of the implementation and management of these support programmes, the leadership style became more systematic and sustainable.”

Factors within either the school or the surrounding community environment can have a large influence over the degree to which the educational needs of vulnerable children are addressed. Moreover, such things can either enable or inhibit teachers and other school-based professionals from carrying out their roles and responsibilities with respect to HIV and AIDS. This most commonly emerges in the area of life-skills curricula and the degree to which they are successfully taught and absorbed by the children and adolescents for whom such programmes are meant. The more controversial aspect has always been sexual and reproductive health (Lloyd 2007). There has been a great reluctance on the part of many educators to put their full effort into addressing this topic. This reluctance arises within schools that are either directly or indirectly intolerant of such things or out of concern for parental reaction in communities where the dominant norm is silence on these matters (Plummer et al. 2006). Finally, there is no doubt that stigma and discrimination is still pervasive and strong across southern Africa. This has a profoundly inhibiting role in terms of the development and implementation of effective and sustainable responses within school settings to address the HIV-related needs of learners and teachers alike (UNAIDS IATTE 2009).

A desk review undertaken by Badcock-Walters (2009) for UNESCO on the special needs of HIV-positive children within schools identified that these needs arise from the fact that these children, “...have a stigmatizing illness, and their lives are at stake if their illness is not identified and treated.” This means that:

As a consequence of the infection, they are more likely than other children to be orphaned, malnourished and deprived of an education. The biological effects of HIV are severe, and the health problems of infected children can affect school entry and progress....[T]hey are more vulnerable to opportunistic infections and schools should be especially vigilant with respect to hygiene in order to protect the children’s health in crowded situations.  

While the participation of HIV-positive children in education has profound, positive impacts on their physical and mental health, schools on their own are challenged to meet all of the needs of these learners (Kvalsvig, Chhagan and Taylor 2007, Greifinger 2009). Teachers and school administrators must promote inclusiveness and be vigilant of either direct or indirect stigmatisation. Close links and coordinated service provision have been shown to be essential for sustaining such children and ensuring their full participation in school. Supportive institutional and national policy contexts, derived from the obligation to protect the rights and entitlements of such children, and to promote their health and well-being, are equally necessary. However, the pace at which such essential components of an enabling environment for HIV-positive learners in schools are being put in place has lagged behind the growth in the number of both HIV-infected and severely HIV-affected children emerging in classrooms throughout the region’s education systems.

One final issue to consider regarding the link between children’s or adolescents’ schooling and its mitigating effects on the impact of HIV on young lives is the extent to which educational attainment prevents HIV infection. The link was first posited by Vandemoortele and Delamonica (2002) in a critical response to Hargreaves and Glynn (2002). With respect to this link, Boler and Caroll (2003) argued that:

...a general foundation in formal education serves as a protective barrier to HIV infection. In other words, there is a negative correlation between HIV susceptibility and educational attainment.

The Global Campaign for Education (2005) found that, in a review of 18 countries in southern Africa and Latin America, basic education had a preventative effect for young women. The term ‘social vaccine,’ referring to participation and attainment in education, has been used to describe this effect. The study noted that completion of primary education was the turning point at which risk for HIV infection started to fall for children and adolescents. There was, however, a strong qualifier to this finding:

[T]he protective benefits of education are being missed when one in two African children either fails to enrol in primary school at all, or drops out before finishing.

Bastien (2008) found that:

Among young people who do not attend school, risk may be as much or more related to the complex set of circumstances which led to their non-attendance at school...as it is to knowledge about HIV.

Birdthistle et al. (2009), working with adolescent girls in Harare, found positive associations between the timing of sexual debut and schooling:

[T]hose who were out of school had more than twice the odds of having had sex, and the odds increased to four times for those who left school before Form 4.”

The heightened risk of HIV infection applied across out-of-school female adolescents whether they were categorised as OVC or not. Working in Zimbabwe, Gavin et al. (2006) found that adolescent females who were married, not attending school, and were unemployed had a heightened risk of HIV infection. Finally, Jukes et al. (2008), in a comprehensive literature review, found increasing evidence to support the link between educational attainment and school enrolment as effective measures in HIV prevention for children and youth:

Both simple enrolment and the cumulative benefits of educational attainment are associated with lower levels of risky behaviour from early sexual initiation to unprotected sex.

2.0.4.     Legal and policy context

Given the complexity of the cause and effective analysis with respect to improving the participation of vulnerable children in education, it is not surprising that challenges arise at the level of policy. As Case et al. (2004) noted:

The diversity of conditions dictates mitigation measures that are tailored to the needs of specific countries; policymakers need to resist the temptation to advocate for a single ‘best practice’ model for all countries regardless of the extent or source of orphan enrolment differentials.

The Global Campaign for Education (2005) identified a number challenges with respect to policy development and planning processes, where “too many HIV and AIDS education sector plans are not implemented because they are developed in isolation from policy and budgetary processes.” The study also concluded that ministries of education and other stakeholders were not taking sufficient steps to ensure that HIV and AIDS infected and affected children can stay in school. Using an index of basic legal and policy instruments to protect and support vulnerable children as a measure of readiness and capacity, Monasch et al. (2007) showed that across 36 African countries, the average score was 48 percent with only five countries scoring 70 percent or above.

Most countries in the region have ratified regional, continental and global instruments defining the rights and entitlements of children and adolescents (Ward, Truluck and Kola 2009). This includes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children and, more recently, the African Youth Charter. In all of these instruments, the rights of children and youth to education and to the means for health and well-being are clearly articulated (UNESCO and UNICEF 2007). However, it has been shown that the capacity to make these entitlements tangible and claimable in the day-to-day lives of the region’s children is inconsistent from country to country (Ward, Truluck and Kola 2009, Human Rights Watch 2005). There are weaknesses across all sectors. In some countries, such as Lesotho and Swaziland, this is changing. As noted later in this report, both countries have taken significant steps forward to domesticate these regional and global instruments, at least at the level of policy and legislation. However, significant challenges remain with respect to translating these instruments into practice to the extent that they benefit individual children.

But support for the rights-based approach to providing care and support to vulnerable children within educational settings is not universal. Kendall (2008), for example, has argued that the rights-based approach that promotes the entitlement of every child to the same schooling, seldom includes equity concerns, such as whether different educational models, opportunities, or resource inputs might better serve different groups:

Thus, most international development efforts to fuel equity and opportunity through increased school access provide the same service – fee-free schooling – to all children, regardless of their vulnerability. Efforts to fuel equity through improved school quality focus almost exclusively on school practices, providing little response to the issues faced by children who cannot make it to the schoolhouse door.

Rights-based approaches can be somewhat two-dimensional in the face of the multi-dimensional nature of vulnerability and impoverishment. There is insufficient dialogue at the moment on whether to strengthen schools as they are and to fill gaps between this and the needs of vulnerable children; or, conversely, to advocate that schools need a complete transformation to properly address their care and support needs.

2.0.5.      Regional trends

a)    Schools as centres of care and support

Momentum is building across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to strengthen and institutionalise schools as the nodal point for provision of care and support for vulnerable children and adolescents. As result of sustained and ground-breaking work by the Media in Education Trust (MIET) to develop and validate a ‘Schools as Centres of Care and Support’ model, SADC Ministers of Education adopted the approach as a regional standard in 2008. To the three original pilot countries, Swaziland, South Africa and Zambia, three more countries were added to the initiative, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique (SADC and MIET 2010, Argall and Allemano 2009). In this expansion phase, the initiative has been renamed ‘Caring and Support for Teaching and Learning’ (CSTL).

An evaluation of the regional pilot phase found that the initiative had brought the issues and challenges of vulnerable children to the forefront resulting in an unprecedented collective response from all stakeholders. However, problems included gaps in capacity at the SADC level to provide coordination and leadership; differences in how target populations were defined; insufficient community participation and ownership where the success of the model depends on it; and a lack of focus on out-of-school youth, particularly beyond primary education level. Concern was also raised about missed opportunities for the systematic and on-going evaluation of the model at a regional level and for regional, inter-country sharing of achievements at the outcome and impact level. The model continues to gain support, most notably in Swaziland and in South Africa where it has been integrated within national education policies and institutionalised across the education sectors.

b)    SADC strategic framework and business plan for orphans, vulnerable children and youth

In 2008, SADC released the Strategic Framework and Programme of Action (2008-2015): Comprehensive Care and Support for Orphans, Vulnerable Children and Youth (SADC 2008). The priorities within the framework revolve around development and harmonisation of policies and strategies addressing orphans, vulnerable children and youth (OVCY); mainstreaming of programmes and services for OVCY across all sectors, including the education sector; strengthening partnerships for a coordinated, multi-sectoral approach; facilitating the provision of technical expertise to support SADC members; and promoting evidence-based policies and programmes.

Subsequently, SADC issued a Business Plan on Orphans, Vulnerable Children and Youth 2009-2015 (SADC 2009). The business plan is rooted in regional and global instruments safeguarding the rights and entitlements of children, adolescents and youth, particularly with respect to education and health. It has a strong emphasis on building capacities at country level for the development and implementation of integrated and comprehensive policies and strategies to address the vulnerability of children and youth. It also has a focus on generating evidence to guide the development of policies and strategies at the regional and country level. The total cost is estimated at US$14.6 million – with US$4.3 million having already been committed.

c)     SADC minimum package of services for orphans and other vulnerable children and youth

In 2011, after a substantial amount of preparatory work to build evidence and achieve consensus, SADC released its Minimum Package of Services for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children and Youth. The development of the package is meant to address the challenge that:

...the current delivery of services in each SADC Member State is too piecemeal, vertical and sectoral, short term and grossly inadequate to respond to the complex needs of orphans and other children and youth.

The intended outcome of the package in this regard is, “the promotion of a more holistic and comprehensive service delivery approach.” This includes the education sector, which has the responsibility to remove barriers to education for OVCY from early child development to primary and secondary schooling, tertiary education, vocational training, and non-formal education. The package also stresses the role of complimentary services across sectors, “…without which effective teaching and learning for vulnerable children and youth cannot take place.” With similar emphasis, the package advocates for mobilising and empowering OVCY, in line with their developing capacities, to access or generate livelihoods on their own or through empowered families and communities.

d)    Other regional initiatives

There are other interventions in the region also focussing on schools as centres of care and support. This includes UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) programme, promoted at country level through its country offices (UNICEF 2006). It also includes, among others, Circles of Support, which was developed by a private consultancy, HDA Ltd (SADC 2007); promotion of the UNESCO Good Policy and Practice in HIV and AIDS and Education guides; the World Bank’s Accelerate Initiative (Bundy et al. 2010); and the tools and guides on the provision of psycho-social support for vulnerable children produced by the Regional Psycho-social Support Initiative (REPSSI), and funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.

About the author(s)

Wongani Grace Nkhoma is the Education Programme Manager. Wongani has over 10 years experience working in the development sector. Before joining OSISA, Wongani worked with ActionAid International - Malawi as Regional Manager and Education Policy Coordinator

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