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Safeguarding children at school – who is responsible?

POSTED: February 17, 2020Category: AISA ArticlesBY: Barnabas Suva

In light of recent tragedies at the Kakamega and Garissa Primary Schools in Kenya, where several 10 to 12-year-old children lost their lives, and many more were seriously injured, critical questions require urgent answers. In the aftermath of these horrific events – a fatal ‘home time’ stampede at Kakamega Primary and a suspected Al-Shabab shooting at Garissa Primary – whose responsibility is it to safeguard the children from such events and to help and support those who experienced these massive traumas?

Equally important, what can school leaders, teachers and counsellors do to minimise the undeniable impact on the education of these young survivors?

“We believe it’s the responsibility of every school, international or local, to take seriously its duty of care and make sure that the school’s child protection and wellbeing policies and procedures are in place and operational,” says Chanel Worsteling, the Association of International Schools in Africa’s (AISA) Child Protection and Wellbeing Programme Manager, who will be facilitating a session on this subject at its upcoming Invitational Conference (AIC) happening in Nairobi 7 – 8 March 2020.

Events such as those Kenya has seen recently, cannot be predicted but with these policies in place, schools have formal guidelines on how to create a safe environment for students and how staff can assist students to develop cognitive, social and emotional skills to process and overcome such tragedies.

Without a formalised approach to advise, counsel and support students and their families through such post-event trauma as well as other possible issues of child wellbeing such as abuse, whether neglect, violent or sexual, students’ education will certainly suffer. Among other symptoms, a child suffering from trauma will have difficulty concentrating in class, studying for tests and exams and/or socialising with peers.

At the upcoming AIC conference and its AISA-COBIS child protection preconference, school leaders, educators and counsellors have the opportunity to learn from leading child protection and wellbeing experts and get practical advice on how to set up best-practice policies and systems.

“Although it is difficult to protect children in unforeseen extreme events such as those that took place in Kakamega and Garissa Primary Schools, safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility, the school and all its staff, parents and the community. As is giving them the skills to maintain good mental health and wellbeing to promote academic success,” concludes Chanel Worsteling.

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