Swaziland case study - Bantwana Schools Integrated Programme (BSIP)


Bantwana is a US-based international NGO based in Boston, Massachusetts. It was launched in 2006 by World Education Inc., a private voluntary organisation founded in 1951. World Education Inc. seeks to meet the needs of the educationally disadvantaged around the globe through training and technical assistance focussing on non-formal education. The organisation currently works in 50 countries on four continents. The Bantwana initiative focussed specifically on the needs of OVC in sub-Saharan African countries with high HIV prevalence.

Former Education Programme Manager

March 11th, 2013


Bantwana is a US-based international NGO based in Boston, Massachusetts. It was launched in 2006 by World Education Inc., a private voluntary organisation founded in 1951. World Education Inc. seeks to meet the needs of the educationally disadvantaged around the globe through training and technical assistance focussing on non-formal education. The organisation currently works in 50 countries on four continents. The Bantwana initiative focussed specifically on the needs of OVC in sub-Saharan African countries with high HIV prevalence.

In its country level programmes, Bantwana focuses on the following intervention priorities:

  • Building the management and technical skills of community-based organisations to provide a comprehensive package of support;
  • Linking organisations to one another, and to other policy and funding networks to share best practices;
  • Monitoring and evaluating what works and why;
  • Convening policymakers, government officials, funders, and communities to track and share knowledge, expertise, challenges, and successes;
  • Focusing on adolescents (who make up more than 60 percent of all OVC); and,
  • Mobilising and leveraging resources for advocacy in partnership with existing local, national, and global efforts.

Bantwana works with small organisations and communities already providing support to OVC. Through a detailed assessment process, Bantwana identifies promising community efforts and helps build management, technical and advocacy capacity to enable communities to care for children over the long-term. It capacitates these local organisations to provide an integrated, holistic package of care for OVC, including psycho-social support and child protection.

Bantwana, with assistance from its US-based partners, including Harvard University, has developed a range of tools to assess the capacity of the organisations it works with. The tools not only measure capacity to provide quality assured and comprehensive OVC services, they also attempt to measure the impact these services have on children’s well-being. The tools include the NGO OVC Capacity Assessment Tool and the Child Profiling Tool, which measure both organisational progress and reach, and changes and improvements in well-being at the level of the child. Once this information is collected, the organisation assists its partners to share the results with all stakeholders, including communities, families, schools, public officials, policy makers and donors. This process also helps to identify best-practice and to inform replication of such programmes in relevant settings.

The Bantwana programme in Swaziland began in 2008. There are three main initiatives: Bantwana Schools Integrated Programme; School Health Outreach Programme; and, Bantwana Advocacy Initiative in Swaziland. Bantwana’s programmes have a primary focus on adolescents.

4.1.1.      Bantwana Schools Integrated programme

The Bantwana Schools Integrated Programme (BSIP) began in 2008 in Lubombo, a largely rural and impoverished region in Swaziland. Working with the MOE, the MOHSW and three national partners – Luhlelo Lolunotsisa Temabhizinisi (LULOTE), School Health and Population Education (SHAPE) and Africa Co-operative Action Trust (ACAT) – BSIP aims to capacitate schools as points of intervention for delivery of a full range of essential and comprehensive services. These include nutrition, basic health care, psycho-social support, education, economic strengthening, HIV prevention and child protection. BSIP began as a 10-school pilot programme with funding from a consortium of private foundations, which included OSF ESP and OSISA. Following an external evaluation, BSIP expanded to 18 schools with support from PEPFAR. Over the longer term, Bantwana plans to scale-up BSIP to all schools in Lubombo and eventually to schools across the country. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the SCCS programme to ensure synergies and to avoid wasteful duplication.

4.1.2.      Strategic framework and programme priorities

The main goal of the BSIP is to offer comprehensive, critically needed and integrated support services to OVC within schools in the Lubombo region. It aims to build the capacity of the schools so that school management committees are able to make decisions, plan and implement small local projects, and actively engage the community in overseeing and advocating for the support of OVC.

The objectives of BSIP are to:

  • Use local schools and build the capacity of school committees as the node of intervention to offer a range of integrated support and services to OVC;
  • Strengthen the capacity of local communities to better support OVC in their midst;
  • Enhance the capacity of local NGOs to provide on-going support in building the skills of local school committees; and,
  • Reach adolescent OVC with a range of appropriate and needed services.

The specific outcomes at the school and community level include:

  • Increased financial and programme management skills;
  • Improved outreach and communication between school committees, parents and the surrounding community regarding the needs of OVC;
  • Increased ability of school committees to form and manage sub-committees for specific OVC outreach services, including health, counselling, food security and livelihoods development;
  • Increased ability of school committees to manage, implement and monitor school improvement projects that benefit OVC and their caregivers;
  • Improved and increased retention of students in school, especially adolescent girls; and,
  • Improved communication between communities and education officials resulting from a greater capacity to advocate on behalf of their schools and the needs of OVC.

BSIP intends to ensure that all adolescent OVC attend school and that they have access to training on gardening, school health programmes (including reproductive health), peer education and life skills (including HIV and STI prevention, and protection against abuse), counselling and psycho-social support, information on legal rights and entitlements, and access to vocational training for livelihoods development.

4.1.3.      Results from child profiling study

Using its child profiling tool, a child profiling study was completed in 2009 for children in the BSIP intervention area (Borisova and Vilane 2009). The main findings of the study were:

  • While there were no notable differences recorded between genders in terms of caregiver arrangements, the study found that older children (adolescents) were much more likely to have lost one or both of their natural parents, and were more likely to be in the care of extended family and siblings;
  • The majority of children lived with 2-4 adults and 3-7 other children in their home (including siblings, cousins, neighbours and friends), meaning that children lived in households that were large (6-11 individuals);
  • The most threatening challenge, mentioned by 66 percent of children profiled, was the issue of insufficient food within the household;
  • Of the children profiled, 55 percent felt that they could not solve the problems in their lives, emphasising the importance of the care and protection of guardians, but 92 percent reported that they still had hope for their future – a positive finding considering the many challenges these same children identified;
  • There were only minimal differences in caregiver support between the different groups of children, which indicated that overall even double orphans were experiencing good levels of care and support from adults in their lives. Similarly, it was found that both girls and boys reported comparable levels of adult support and affection;
  • Only 61 percent of the children managed to pass the last school term. One possible reason for this was the lack of support children received for their school work from the adults in their lives. Only 58 percent of children claimed to have ever received any help with their school work from parents or guardians;
  • The majority (67 percent) of the children’s school fees were paid for by the GKS. Only 16 percent of the children’s school fees were paid for by natural parents, 5 percent by their relatives, and 4 percent by NGOs;
  • 64 percent of sexually-active children reported having used a condom the last time they had sex. Various reasons cited for using condoms were preventing pregnancy, HIV and STIs, among others. 3.5 percent of children admitted that they had been raped or forced into intercourse, and that condoms were not used;
  • 27 percent of participants reported having been physically hit hard and left with bruises. Most (64 percent) of this physical abuse happened at home. Physical abuse was also experienced at school (27 percent), as well as other public locations. Eight percent of children interviewed had been inappropriately fondled or made to fondle someone without their permission;
  • Physical abuse was experienced more frequently by boys in primary schools than for girls at either schooling level. However, girls suffered from sexual abuse and much more often than boys (75 percent of the children who reported sexual abuse were girls);
  • The most common challenges experienced by children (40 percent) was unemployment of the primary wage earner in the child’s home, followed by home responsibilities interfering with a child’s school work (31 percent). 30 percent of children also reported that they had to take on heavy family responsibility in the past school term and 25 percent of youth had to take on a job in order to support their family (more common among older youth);
  • The main source of income for most of the children’s households was self-employment (32 percent) or formal income earning by either the child or family member (35 percent). Only 11 percent of children’s families relied on remittances;
  • Approximately 45 percent of children had no one else besides the parent or caregiver to support them with money. Those who had other financial support received it from either grandparents (5 percent), siblings (17 percent) or extended family members (19 percent);
  • 27 percent of children said that they had never been educated about child abuse, and 46 percent were not aware of any local organisation dealing with child protection issues;
  • Children who were not receiving enough material support were struggling not only materially but also emotionally because of loss of hope, lack of self-esteem, and poverty;
  • The study identified four main predictors of positive psycho-social health, including a positive connection with an adult caregiver; having friends; passing grades in school; and, having all basic needs provided for. Consequently, the most powerful predictors of psycho-social problems were found to be a combination of three main factors: many hardships, high levels of perceived stigma, and low levels of positive adult connection. These effects were found to be true irrespective of orphan status, gender, or age.
  • Finally, the study revealed that older children were more likely to fail than younger children. Most notably, however, was the finding that that girls were just as likely to pass (or fail) as boys. A positive connection with an adult was associated with higher rates of passing.

4.1.4.      Preliminary Results from programme implementation

In its start-up phase, BSIP conducted an initial round of training for school committees. Examples of activities generated by the school committee training included the following:

Home visits to OVC

Certain school committees identified sites within the community where they could conduct home visits for double orphans. Some visits necessitated that children be accommodated in their neighbours’ houses at night to reduce risk, or be taken in by extended family members. A major challenge has been the issue of land and maintaining it in the possession of OVC. School committee members have engaged local chiefs in discussions on this issue and the local chiefs have promised to make sure that OVC are not dispossessed of their inherited land.

a)      Care-giver interventions

One school committee engaged single parents that were struggling with family issues and counselled them on their responsibility to provide for their children. This was found to be a common problem in cases where the parent was working away from the household and not providing for his or her children.

b)      Foster school parents

Some school committees introduced a ‘Foster School Parents’ programme. This involved parents who volunteered to supervise and support OVC during extracurricular activities. This intervention was designed to close the gap for OVC growing up without the presence of a caring adult in their lives.

c)      OVC study support

Some primary schools introduced an hour long study period either after school, during sports time, or during the third term. This allowed students to seek assistance from their peers or their teachers with their school work. Another local initiative was to set up supervised homework assistance classes in the community to provide students with assistance on their homework outside of school hours. Completing homework was found to be a challenge for OVC, especially in the rural areas, where most people who could assist were not available during allocated study times.

d)      Civil days

 Some schools introduced ‘civil days’ when students were free not to wear their uniforms in return for payment of a small fee. The funds collected during civil days were then utilised for purchasing basic items like shoes or school supplies for OVC in their schools.

Other results achieved to-date by BSIP include:

  • Development of a core service package that addresses the physical, emotional, academic, and social well-being of children;
  • Support for livelihoods activities for adolescents, as well as for school committee members and teachers, that have raised funds to support OVC needs;
  • Establishment of enhanced school feeding programmes and permaculture gardens to improve child and household nutrition, and to generate income;
  • Provision of small grants to support schools to procure teaching tools and equipment; and,
  • Establishment of corner libraries in schools to boost students reading and writing skills, and to assist teachers to conduct extra learning sessions outside of the regular school timetable and curriculum.

4.1.5.      School Health Outreach Programme (SHOP)

The child profiling study found that general health and sickness were two of the main predictors of absenteeism, which underscored the importance of providing health services to children within schools. In the study, 25 percent of children who experienced some kind of illness did not seek help due to lack of funds.

In order to strengthen and expand the capacity of the MOHSW Lubombo Regional School Health Outreach team, Bantwana secured a grant from the Izumi Foundation in 2009. The goal of the grant is to increase access to basic primary healthcare services for vulnerable youth in the Lubombo region. The specific objectives of SHOP are to:

  • Build the capacity of the Lubombo regional school health outreach team to provide primary health care to 14,800 children in 37 schools in Lubombo;
  • Strengthen the capacity of teachers and community health outreach volunteers in basic first aid and universal precautions; and,
  • Improve coordination between technical line ministries to expand access to primary healthcare, health education, and urgent referrals for children.

The grant supports a full-time nurse to work in tandem with the MOHSW’s school health outreach team to increase the range and timeliness of health care interventions within schools.  

In the first year of SHOP, significant results were achieved:

  • 7,265 students received basic health services and treatment;
  • 86 school visits were conducted by the Bantwana nurse;
  • 117 students were referred for additional treatment;
  • 71 teachers were trained in first aid and universal precautions;
  • 23 first aid kits were distributed to schools; and,
  • 2,400 students were trained in health and hygiene-related topics.

SHOP has brought other benefits, including improving the morale of the school health outreach team and community health outreach volunteers. The project has also influenced the MOHSW to improve stock management to reduce the number of times that essential medicines are not available. As a result of providing first aid training, teachers felt more confident to address health needs in their schools. Teachers also found that students were absent less frequently.

4.1.6.      Psycho-social support, HIV prevention and reproductive health

To build the capacity of schools to address the psycho-social needs of learners, BSIP provided introductory training on basic psycho-social concepts and the importance of addressing psycho-social needs within schools. The participants were mainly teachers and school committee members. A sub-set of this group were subsequently given more intensive training in order to serve as focal points in their schools and community for building awareness and mobilising resources to provide psycho-social support to children. This has addressed the concern that teachers generally felt burdened, disempowered, unsupported and overwhelmed by the needs confronting them in classrooms. Broader community involvement meant that teachers could rely on a number of different resources to provide the support that learners needed. BSIP has engaged a psycho-social specialist to provide follow up support, including counselling individual students and providing peer support to teachers and principals.

BSIP has also trained learners as peer educators in order to undertake HIV prevention activities in schools. These individuals help to form health clubs in schools, which provide adolescents with opportunities to socialise in a safe, teacher-facilitated environment that promotes peer interactions and positive healthy behaviour. The clubs also provide opportunities for education and discussion on HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health. Teachers trained in psycho-social support facilitate the health club sessions using a standardised life skills manual compiled by the Swaziland National Youth Council and NERCHA. This life skills manual covers an array of topics such as physical and emotional health, choices and decision making, peer pressure, and stigma and discrimination.

After head teachers raised concerns about the growing number of adolescent girls leaving school because of pregnancy, BSIP developed a broader strategy to provide sexual and reproductive health support for all students, regardless of whether or not they participated in health clubs. To-date, BSIP has worked with principals, teachers, and school committees to ensure that career guidance teachers are trained to work in adolescent and child friendly ways to provide sexual and reproductive health information and support, including HIV prevention interventions.

4.1.7.      Food security

In order to improve food security within schools and within individual households, BSIP has implemented the following:

  • Training of teachers and school committee members on improved management of school feeding programmes, including improving food storage and food preparation processes;
  • Training of school committees on permaculture gardening techniques and provision of fencing and seedlings;
  • Assistance to individual households to start homestead gardens, including mobilisation of community assistance to clear land, to build fences and to provide manure and other start-up supplies. The gardens are monitored by trained school committee members, ACAT extension officers, and agricultural extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture; and,
  • Provision of food hampers to children in families in extreme situations. Families are screened by teachers and school committee members before they are assisted. In addition, school committee members visit the homesteads to ensure that the food is being eaten by the children.

4.1.8.      Child protection and support

School committee members have been mobilised to conduct home visits and to intervene in situations where children without parents are living in dangerous situations. The members organise community volunteers to stay in child-headed households in the evenings. They also arrange for volunteers to mentor children without parents and to organise after school study sessions to assist these children with their studies.

BSIP also provides small grants for OVC action plans at the school level. The grants facilitate income generating activities, which in turn provide schools with funds to finance OVC-related activities, such as school fees and material assistance. The average grant amount per year is US$1,800 per school.

4.1.9.      Educational support

BSIP participating schools have received grants of US$1,000 to purchase additional educational material and equipment for the school. The introduction of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGSE) curriculum in Swaziland has put rural schools at a pronounced disadvantage in comparison to most urban schools. The new curriculum has introduced oral and listening comprehension testing, requiring the use of tape recorders or DVD players. Schools are expected to play DVDs and tapes for some subjects and to use tapes for oral exams. In addition, exams in science and other subjects require raw materials for schools to provide practicals for learners in these subjects. Some of the items purchased by schools through the BSIP grant include: tapes, cassette players, microphones, science kits, supplementary English reading books, wind vanes, thermometers, calculators, dictionaries, and world maps.

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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