Caring Schools Project moves towards completion
By Norma Rudolph

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The Caring Schools Project is in the final stages of testing and strengthening its Champions for Children Handbook, which aims to facilitate an expanded role for schools to mobilise partnerships towards protecting child rights in the context of AIDS.

In February 2009, three partner implementing teams from the Catholic Institute of Education, the Little Elephant Training Centre in Early Childhood Development and Save the Children UK gathered for a workshop to prepare for the last stretch of the journey to build caring school communities in six municipal wards. A participant comments: “I learned [of] the need for actively involving the community in development initiatives; the need for encouraging child participation … to create a caring school community; and the importance of children’s rights and how to counter myth and cultural implications.” The teams meet every six months to strengthen their approach by reflecting on progress and sharing experiences across the sites in the Free State, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.

Another nine teams spread across the Northern and Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal are also each implementing a similar approach in one ward. Class Act Educational Services has been contracted to manage implementation in these nine sites.

All teams are using a pilot version of the Champions for Children Handbook to guide communities to build a shared vision of a better future and to work together for change, using schools as gateways for care and support. Community leaders, teacher unions, school governing bodies, Department of Education officials and other government role-players, as well as faith-based and other non-government service providers can use the handbook to develop and sustain multi-sectoral teams to realise child rights.

The first group of three partner teams receives intensive support, while the extent to which the handbook can be used without face-to-face support is investigated through the other nine teams, who use an adapted version of the handbook. Five mentors are being trained by Class Act to mediate the approach and collect data.

In mid-2008, the Children’s Institute also hosted 20 people from southern and eastern Africa who use similar appreciative rights-based approaches to share experiences and talk about strengthening the child rights movement in the region. Participants also provided valuable feedback on the handbook.

With phase two of the project moving towards completion, the plan is to document the project to draw out lessons and evaluate the effectiveness of the handbook in assisting schools communities to support child-well being in the context of HIV/AIDS.

The project is funded by Stop Aids Now!, HIVOS and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. For a copy of the handbook contact for a CD-ROM or hard copy.


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