Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260 - 263)



  260. Do you not consider that it is the main responsibility of the state to provide any education to children, particularly to orphaned children?
  (Dr Webb) Absolutely. We have been saying that for the last 20 years but still we are seeing the contraction of the education sector, so we have to look at alternative opportunities or put a huge mass of investment into the education training, recruitment and training and infrastructure. The infrastructure is not there. Schools do not have roofs and that kind of thing.
  (Ms Simms) Probably this links in with other ideas concerning regeneration of traditional African systems. What one has to do is to mobilise the community. The education that is happening in formal schools is very poor. Obviously you need to have that but there is great potential in the community to be mobilised, which can be done through various innovative ways such as using the radio or various systemic methods to revive and develop the education provided for each child by extended family and community members. African extended families and communities have or had a well developed traditional education system of their own. Extended family members taught children through example, projects and encouragement a number of very relevant skills such as agriculture, care of animals, child care, cooking, pottery, art, music, poetry, philosophy, ethics, principles and practice of community care of others and usually also a trade. It was a broad general "progressive" education except that it did not teach children to read or write. We could try to regenerate such traditional extended family and community education systems and also perhaps teach children to read and write by radio or postal methods. There are all sorts of innovative ideas that could be used, building on what Africa has instead of importing what we have here. Our systems often do not work in Africa, because it is often outdated models of the system that are exported and we do not have the resources to do it properly. So you have, for example, 200 children in a class. More so, I would say this is the case with developing community social support systems and at some stage I would like to point out what I would like to see done there, more so than in education.


  261. Would you like to say it now?
  (Ms Simms) For community social support systems, it is clear what works. There have been a few very good projects which have worked like the Chief Chirumbira Project in Zimbabwe. There has also been a successful project in Uganda (the child social welfare project in Rakai)and this is mobilising the community to provide for the needs of AIDS orphans. Africa has a wonderful extended family and community system. That needs to be supported and developed. It is a system involving the traditional leaders-the village chiefs, and they have the power to mobilise volunteers in a situation of crisis. AIDS is a crisis. There needs to be a national coordinating body which implements an agreed national policy for children in need from a low cost centre for the development of community based projects-which will provide training and coordination. What you need to do is to use the few trained social work personnel there are—and there are very few-in a systematic way around the whole of the country with a small, low cost resource centre in each area from which you are going to do outreach work at grass root level, which will be mobilising the community structures that there are. You will be having meetings, do systemic work, education work including through the radio. You will promote a committee for every sub-area and for every village and a volunteer for every child in need. Every child in need will have a named primary care giver in the extended family and a care plan for that child, identifying what that child's needs are. It will then identify what resources are needed and how these can be accessed. The care plan for each child would be recorded at the resource centre as would regular reviews of the plan. This will also give an idea what resources are needed in that area which can be put forward for development. I suggest that these will be likely to be income generating projects, employment projects and material aid for families, and community based rehabilitation for disabled children as well as community-based day special education for disabled children who are unable to attend normal school. People to trace families of children who are lost, abandoned or in institutions are likely to be needed, so that an appropriate care plan can be made for the child in the extended family. The centre will keep a register with care plans for children in need and disabled people. It will develop projects to develop support including bereavement support for AIDS-affected families and children—developing community support systems using all sorts of innovative methods and systemic work to get the community to provide help and bereavement support, as is the culture. Also using the radio to provide support and bereavement therapy for AIDS affected families including AIDS orphans, who could also listen to educational programmes. All sorts of bereavement therapy methods could be used through the radio or by post, and the radio could also convey information concerning prevention of AIDS and to dissipate stigma. In addition to that for the few children who the extended families cannot care for with these care plans, you need to set up locally based foster care systems. All these developments need to be done systematically in every area of every country. It would not be expensive because you are using the community systems that are there and volunteers. This has worked in a number of countries and it needs to be replicated elsewhere using the community as a partnership in developing these systems.

  262. Dr Webb, do you think that is too idealistic and not practical?
  (Dr Webb) The problem is with these kinds of schemes is the replication, saying, "We have something that works in places X, Y and Z" and actually taking it to scale. We can look at each individual programme and say that this works and this does not work but what we are finding is, in the context of decentralisation which we are working in now, this problem of taking things forward is far more difficult because the central authorities are not taking that lead role in taking these small scale projects, saying, "They work. Let us take them to another place". It becomes very difficult to effect that movement to other areas. We are finding that there is a proliferation of models, of pilots, which have been demonstrated to be effective in various ways, to use community resources, but it is actually taking it to scale that is such a challenge. The lack of central capacity in government to do that is probably the critical barrier.

  Mr Rowe: In India, there are now some very good examples of successful projects not unlike this which have begun to be generalised through the use of a central training resource.


  263. We have to stop here. We have a lot of other questions but a number of us have other commitments right now. We would like to thank you very much. The imaginative ideas and the type of working directly with the communities which are affected, reinforcing their systems are obviously the way that we must move ahead. You have given us very important messages.
  (Ms Simms) The European Children's Trust has been implementing these methods in eastern Europe. They are not just ideas. They have been implemented elsewhere and would be much easier to implement in Africa because the structures are there to do so.

  Chairman: Can I thank Mr Gorman, Francesca Simms and Douglas Webb very much indeed on behalf of the Committee for giving us your ideas this morning.

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