In 2004, UNICEF estimated that the number of children orphaned by AIDS globally would exceed 25 million by 2010, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV and AIDS, poverty and a variety of other factors in the physical, political, socio-economic and ecological environments would radically threaten survival and development opportunities of children. This projection was published in UNICEF’s 2004 Framework for the Protection, Care and Support of Orphans and Vulnerable Children, a document drawn up by a wide array of practitioners and representatives, government and non-government, in the international development field, with the purpose of providing global leaders and decision makers with a common agenda for an effective response to the problems of orphans and vulnerable children and youth.
At the time of reporting, 2004, according to the framework, few resources were reaching families, schools, communities and health care and welfare systems to help them cope with the impact of these hazards. Little attention was being given in national development agendas to help provide a front-line response and donors had not yet come up with comprehensive and targeted programmes. The framework stressed that governments and agencies needed to work together in co-ordinated ways to achieve an effective response to the problems presented by the epidemic and the related problem of poverty in underdeveloped regions of the world. Leadership, co-ordination and facilitation by governments were described as fragmented and weak, with programmes reaching a tiny minority of vulnerable children.
Over the last six years, since the publication of the 2004 UNICEF framework, the demand for an education sector response has been mounting and programme interventions to offer care and support to vulnerable children have been piloted and implemented. Increasingly Ministries of Education across Africa have risen to the challenge of providing large-scale interventions at a national level. This has been most evident in the sub-Saharan region, incorporating the SADC region, where widespread poverty and high HIV prevalence has had an unprecedented negative impact on millions of children. A review of the literature available suggests that more widely across
developed and developing nations, education-based interventions have concentrated on supporting children through HIV education and awareness-raising. Sub-Saharan Africa appears to lead the way in proposing and piloting more holistic and integrated models of care and support which focus on a broad spectrum of the needs of children, especially the most vulnerable.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is afflicted by poverty, war, HIV and AIDS placing millions of children at risk. Providing care and support to vulnerable children is one of the greatest challenges currently facing the region. The education sector is just one sector in which there are negative repercussions: The majority of OVCY are of school-going age; however they are less likely to enrol at or attend school regularly and more likely to drop out of school than their non-vulnerable peers. Thus, the growing number of OVCY is offsetting progress towards achieving the Education For All (EFA) goals and other international and national targets. There is however, a great deal of potential, for education systems to form a key part of the solution to providing care and support to OVCY.
Children spend a large portion of their lives at school. Sometimes a school is the only infrastructure in a small rural community and for parents and children alike represents the promise of learning which will secure a child’s future. The school brings together people who occupy a number of different roles (in the classroom, in the playground, in management and on governing bodies, in support services and other groups). The school has therefore been identified by many service provision agencies and organisations as an essential node for the delivery of care and support services to vulnerable children.
Schools are not the only centres for the provision of support services, however. Over the last ten to fifteen years, as HIV /AIDS has tightened its grip over communities across the southern African region, a plethora of non-government initiatives, operating independently of schools, have been set up to respond to the needs of children and families made vulnerable by the pandemic.
All approaches to the implementation of care and support interventions in the school appear to uphold above all a common commitment to putting the needs and interests of the child first and strengthening school communities to provide a more caring, supportive and inclusive environment for effective teaching and learning.
Mainstreaming care and support in school-based interventions involves a paradigm shift in the schools’ approach to the development and education of the child. Schools are no longer expected to hand down an education package from within a vertical ministerial stream. Rather, policies, services and programmes designed to support vulnerable children and their families need to be more diffuse and enacted in an integrated manner, rather than in programme isolation. Children’s developmental needs (health, education, protection, nutrition and poverty reduction, for example) must be addressed across policies, procedures, planning, budgeting, capacity building, human resource development, monitoring and evaluation and inter-sectoral networking.
This literature review aims to identify the core elements which are necessary for the provision of school-based care and support to teachers and learners in the SADC region. With a focus on particular studies and programmes, it aims to provide signposts for the development of the existing sub-regional research agenda, identifying lessons learnt from current practices.
Section 2 identifies the main documentation sources used in this literature review as well as the limitations associated with these.
Section 3 gives a brief overview of the institutional policy framework for a co-ordinated response to providing care and support for children rendered vulnerable by socio-economic and health factors at international, regional and national levels. International instruments have set targets for countries to draft and implement domestic policies to address the needs of vulnerable sectors. A review of progress in SADC Member States in achieving compliance in law and policy reform, together with progress in implementation, is being conducted separately.
Section 4 provides a brief overview of the SADC region focusing on demographic data that has a bearing on the ability of children in the Region to access quality education. and the importance of the school system as entry points for the care and support interventions through partnership of government and non-government organisations across a wide spectrum.
Section 5 discusses the various modalities of care and support for teaching and learning observable in 14 programme interventions across the SADC region, touching on implementation achievements and challenges.
Section 6 provides a summary of the core elements of care and support for teaching and learning and demonstrated by the commonalities in the 14 programme interventions discussed in Section 5.
Section 7 draws out some of the information and research gaps evident in the literature and suggests potential areas for further research.