As part of a coronavirus emergency response in the four FutureLife-Now! pilot countries, MIET AFRICA developed a communication and advocacy strategy to reach young people, their families, and broader communities with factually accurate information on the virus.

This included introducing radio programmes as a component of the FutureLife-Now! programme, because radio can be used to inform, educate, advocate and promote social learning, as well as entertain communities.

The programming included a 20-episode radio programme on COVID-19 called Together – We can beat it, which ran from August to December 2020; two interrelated programmes on comprehensive sexuality education in partnership with UNFPA and UNESCO which ran between November 2020 and January 2021; and a programme on climate change, Our Changing Climate – Our Time to Act!, developed in collaboration with UNITAR and broadcast in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe from late November 2020 until February 2021.

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The COVID-19 pandemic presented a host of challenges to Lesotho’s schooling, including its FutureLife-Now! programme, which depends on schools as entry points to reach and support young people.

But, as in the other Future Life-Now! pilot countries, technology came to the rescue. With technical assistance from MIET AFRICA and COVID-19 emergency support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the 10 FutureLife-Now! pilot schools were equipped with solar power, Wi-Fi and the necessary hardware (including a laptop, data projector and screen) to enable ongoing interaction. Utilizing online or e-platforms such as Zoom and MS Teams, meetings and workshops were able to continue during lockdown and school closures.

According to Rantsane Kuleile, Lesotho’s FutureLife-Now! Country Manager, every cloud has a silver lining. “COVID-19 has been a game changer, in that we got to appreciate the important role played by technology in teaching and learning. These effective e-platforms have been established to allow for online communication and capacity-building sessions both by the MIET AFRICA Lesotho in-country team as well as nurses in the nearby health facilities.”

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COVID-19 brought with it a serious communication challenge. Lockdowns, restrictions on public gatherings and face-to-face meetings resulted in curbs on all educational activity, including FutureLife-Now! programmes.

In response to this challenge MIET AFRICA assisted the 10 FutureLife-Now! schools in Malawi by establishing an effective e-platform solution. Each school was equipped with solar panels, laptops, projectors and Wi-Fi access, allowing for online communication, meetings and workshops. This has enabled the schools to conduct virtual meetings with their own stakeholders, including learners, educators, parents, local and religious leaders, task team members and civil society organisations, as well as with one another.

One of the schools that has benefited from the installation of the e-platforms is Umbwi Secondary School in Dedza district. Dave Mchakama is the youth facilitator at the school. He prides himself on utilising the e-platform to provide civic education to students at the school.

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Welcome to the Chalimbana Clinic Youth-friendly Corner, situated in Chongwe District in the province of Lusaka in Zambia. A Youth-friendly Corner is a safe zone for young people. It is a place where adolescents can access health information concerning their lives, and non-judgmental services relating to reproductive health. It is also a healthy environment for “hanging out” and developing some life skills.

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It is always inspiring to hear stories of learners taking matters into their own hands and making decisions that have a positive impact on their lives as well as those of their family and their community.

In the face of hunger and hopelessness brought on by COVID-19, one such learner, a 15-year-old girl named Diana Zariro, made the decision to take charge of her future, and empower herself through her own actions.

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An important component of the FutureLife-Now! programme is the testing of a package of school-based HIV/SRHR services and support in secondary schools. The medical service fair, facilitated by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in partnership with FutureLife-Now! and its local partner, the United Methodist Church, made a significant contribution towards this support package.

Held at Murape Secondary School in Mashonaland East Province on 11 and 12 March, the aim of the fair was to bring medically-related services to the community. In such events, partnerships are key. Members of the United Methodist Church employed in various medical fields—from nurses, doctors, pharmacists and counsellors—worked as a team to source medicines and medical and other equipment for use during the outreach event. Other partners included Chitungwiza Hospital, which provided an ambulance and hospital beds, as well as personnel to assist over the two-day programme. Several pharmacies donated medicines and various medical supplies.

Testing for cervical cancer and HIV was conducted in private rooms that were set up in the school. Other key services provided were consultations with doctors, and then testing, treatment and medication if required. All the services were provided free of charge, thanks to the many partners who donated their services and medical supplies as their contribution to promoting wellness in the community.

The fair was hailed as a great success, with over 700 learners, 25 teachers and 275 members of the community (some of whom came from over 15 km away) attending. In addition to the general health benefits it provided the wider community, the fair also contributed to FutureLife-Now!’s specific objectives of reducing new HIV infections and increasing adherence to ART among youth in the SADC Region.

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The SADC Secretariat, UNESCO, UNICEF, MIET AFRICA and key partners held a successful webinar on 3 September which provided a platform for exchange between education leaders and stakeholders on good practices and challenges related to the re-opening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The webinar highlighted the close relationship between health and education and the negative impact COVID-19 has had in this regard. Lockdowns highlighted pre-existing challenges facing schools, for example infrastructure and governance, and other roles that schools play aside from education, for example in nutrition.

A key takeaway message is that at the systemic level, it is necessary to build resilient and robust systems, and it was acknowledged that the following elements were critical: infrastructure, capacity building, (e.g. equip teachers with ICT skills), financing, psycho-social well-being of educators, and the building of partnerships.

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Posted by Letswalo M Community Manager on 19 May 2021 11:05 AM SAST
Letswalo M Community Manager photo

CSTL in Zimbabwe has enabled scaling-up and systematising support for children and responding to a broad range of barriers. In 2017, over 90 workshops and training sessions on CSTL priority areas were conducted by MoPSE in collaboration with various partners.

They reached 2 464 officials, 5 507 teachers, 3 425 community members and 2 632 learners. CSTL has focused the school communities on identifying and responding to the needs of vulnerable children.

Parenting skills workshops are aiding parents to better understand care and support for teaching and learning as well as their role as caregivers. MoPSE and partners are implementing community outreach programmes to provide services and support to address the needs of vulnerable learners and community members.

All schools have started implementing a strengthened Life Skills curriculum and all offer HIV&AIDS and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programmes. Training in the new Life Skills curriculum has been provided for 6 220 teachers.

Through CSTL, training and capacity building is being provided for teachers, parents, caregivers and community members. This helps the school communities to better focus on areas that support teaching and learning.

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The South African government has made significant gains in increasing access to affordable basic education for the majority of the country’s previously marginalised citizens. Notwithstanding these gains, the provision of quality education is one of the most urgent challenges facing the government.

Factors that create a weak foundation for the delivery of quality education—many as a result of the backlog inherited from the apartheid era—include inadequate school infrastructure; insufficient teaching and learning resources; large class sizes; a shortage of qualified teachers; poor access to early childhood education; inadequate parental involvement; poverty; poor nutrition; and poor access to health care. All these present as structural barriers to education that require focused interventions.

South Africa, an original CSTL Member State, recognized early on that the crisis in education and the vulnerability of learners could be successfully addressed through the mainstreaming of care and support in learning and teaching. While the many school-based care and support initiatives impacted positively on large numbers of learners, prior to CSTL they were fragmented, unsatisfactorily spread geographically, inadequately monitored, and poorly harmonized. The uptake of CSTL in South Africa has been swift.

Strong national CSTL structures evolved, such as a National CSTL Steering Committee comprising representatives from the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the nine provinces. South Africa recently revised its national CSTL Conceptual Framework, adding a 10th priority area focusing on social cohesion and the rights of the child.

“The most significant development overall is the change in mindset. That is, the realization and understanding of the vulnerability of children and their care and support needs,” says Ms Amanda Rozani, DBE Deputy Director (CSTL). “CSTL has brought about a renewed focus on poverty at all levels within the system and a progressive weaving of care and support into policies and plans.”

“CSTL has brought about a renewed focus on poverty at all levels within the system and a progressive weaving of care and support into policies and plans.” Implementation of CSTL has expanded into all nine provinces, with the DBE engaged in training teachers, district officials, and school-based support teams in the delivery of care and support. 

An important milestone was the launch of the DBE’s new policy on HIV&AIDS, STIs and TB. In line with national policy, one of the goals of the new policy is to increase knowledge and information about life skills, specifically about HIV and TB, so that all learners, educators, school support staff, and officials are able to make better life choices and protect themselves from infection and disease.

In 2018 the DBE, in partnership with UNICEF and MIET AFRICA, hosted its inaugural national Care and Support for Teaching and Learning Conference. More than 230 delegates ranging from CSTL policy implementers to policymakers, policy influencers, learners, and educators engaged around the ten priority areas of South Africa’s CSTL National Model and shared best practices on the coordination of care and support services in the education sector. The CSTL initiative in South Africa is no longer viewed as a project but is fully mainstreamed in the day-to-day operations of the government system.

“There is an acknowledgment that education is about care and support,” says Dr Granville Whittle, Deputy Director-General DBE: Care and Support Services. “CSTL is about the child —and the child is at the center of education.”

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Clean hands save lives. It’s as simple as that.

According to UNICEF, in 2016 diarrhoea was responsible for approximately 8% of all deaths of children under five.

Simple hygiene practices, including washing hands with soap, can reduce the rate of diarrhoea by almost 40%.4 But in many areas of South Africa, water and soap are scarce commodities and for thousands of school children, this situation is potentially deadly. 

However, this is not the case at Sishila Primary School, outside Nelspruit in eastern South Africa. Housed under a tin roof is the new “washing station”, a three-meter long pipe with enough outlets to provide water for up to 17 children at the same time. Similar washing stations have been built at another 27 schools spread over four districts in the Province of Mpumalanga. This is where learners wash their hands and brush their teeth as part of their daily routine.

Teaching learners healthy practices, ensuring safe, clean water, and providing hygienic and functional ablution facilities are the cornerstones of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme. In Mpumalanga, WASH was piloted by the DBE in 393 Maths, Science, and Technology Academy schools. 

In the spirit of CSTL, this was a collaboration between several partners: an international development agency (UNICEF), a technical support agency (MIET AFRICA), the private sector (Kimberly-Clark Corporation), and government (DBE and Department of Health). WASH is one of the priority action areas in South Africa’s CSTL strategy. Safe water, proper sanitation and good hygiene, fundamental to the healthy growth of children, are basic human rights.

“Ensuring that South African children are educated about the importance of washing hands is only part of the battle,” says principal of Shishila, Mr IM Mazibuko. “The real challenge comes in ensuring that the behaviour becomes a habit. This will go a long way in reducing school absenteeism due to diarrhoea and respiratory infections—two of the biggest killers amongst schoolgoing children. 

Key to the success of the programme was a cohort of learner support agents (LSAs). These young people, all matriculants and all previously unemployed, work in schools providing homework and life skills support, as well as care and support to learners in general. 

Nandi has been an LSA in the Ehlanzeni district for over a year. She was excited to be one of the 40 LSAs chosen to take part in the WASH programme and receive training on collecting data, and how to train learner leaders and cleaners about WASH. “It was a great deal of work but it was interesting,” she says. “I had to visit many of the schools to collect important data, like whether there was enough soap in the washing areas.” Once the pilot programme started, thousands of tubes of toothpaste, toothbrushes and bars of soap were delivered to each school. 

The LSAs were responsible for the management of the supplies. Nandi also enjoyed working with learner leaders, showing them the correct method of handwashing, how to mentor their peers and how to start handwashing campaigns in their schools.

“We met with learner leaders after school on a regular basis to have campaigns around collecting litter or creating posters about hygiene. “The WASH pilot has ended but I am still a homework LSA and I still keep my eye on our wash station,” she says. 

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