The school borders the sprouting high density suburb of Southlea Park in this southern part of the capital. Dry as dust characterizes this part of the country, known especially for the iconic cemetery for the city. However, the environment changes once one enters the neat surroundings of the school yard and is welcomed by the sight of a thriving greenhouse and a vegetable garden. Neatly attired learners, in grey and blue uniforms chatter amidst the end of day heat as they enjoy the first few days of the new school term.
Blackfordby is one of the 15 schools in Zimbabwe benefitting from the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) programme implemented by MiET Africa with financial support from the Government of Switzerland through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). CSTL is a SADC Education Policy Framework that provides for addressing barriers to education.
Its objective is to develop educated skilled human capital of the region. Zimbabwe has domesticated CSTL – a programme whose approach to education is holistic. Implementation of CSTL takes place at the local level (School), national (Ministries of Education and Health) and at the regional (Southern African Development Community (SADC)) Secretariat.
CSTL aims to remove health and social barriers which limit the potential of children. The Zimbabwe CSTL model has ten priorities namely: nutrition, safety, work, health, material support, grants, identification documents, socially inclusive and cohesive initiatives, ending gender-based violence and supporting curriculum and co-curriculum support with a focus on inclusive education as well as leadership and child-empowering initiatives.
In Zimbabwe, CSTL is currently being implemented by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and was launched in 2015.
According to the Chief Director in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Mrs. Nyanungo, since the inception of CSTL at Blackfordby Primary School, the overall pass and attendance rates have increased “thus showing the success of this critical, multi-faceted intervention” she explained.
Blackfordby Primary has become a hub of novelty and activity with the City Department of Health officials and other development partners including community based organisations constantly visiting the school supporting various activities.
A kitchen at the school feeds vulnerable and orphaned children helping keep malnutrition and extreme poverty at bay. The school, with nearly 3’000 learners and 80 educators, receives government support in infrastructure development to make sure that no child is left behind.
During a roundtable discussion with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s Deputy Director, Thomas Gass and the Head of the Eastern and Southern Africa Division, Peter Bieler relevant stakeholders who comprise the School Development Committee, the School Headmaster, locally based NGOs and school children noted how the School Annual Development Plan – a requirement of the CSTL programme – has been completed annually since the inception of the programme with very good outcomes for learners.
It is evident that the School Development Committee is active and works closely with the local community. Comprising representatives of the school, police, district health officials and other stakeholders, the Team have intervened in cases of child abuse and neglect and have ensured that the affected children are moved to places of safety. Indeed it is a credit to the CSTL programme that Blackfordby Primary is seen as a leader in the community in terms of assisting children in need. Numerous cases were cited by the Team of where a positive intervention took place.
Reviews and experience with CSTL have demonstrated that HIV transmission and how it attacks the immune system calls for an approach that is people centred, an all-inclusive effort across multiple sectors. This calls for systematically establishing links between health, education and climate change in the fight against new HIV infections, adopting a gendered approach to HIV/SRHR services and prioritizing increased antiretroviral (ART) adherence among children especially boys and youth in Southern Africa. This realization has given birth to a new programme called FutureLife-Now! which has just been launched and builds on the CSTL framework.
For the learners of Blackfordby Primary School, an example of a well-functioning learning institution where commitment and dedication is evident, the benefits of CSTL are clear and life-changing.