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AISA Places Special Emphasis on Child Protection

The Association of International Schools in Africa Professional Learning Institute in Accra, Ghana agree that child protection is a collective responsibility
By Lana Captan Ghandour
AISA Places Special Emphasis on Child Protection

Child protection in schools is a “collaborative and collective responsibility” that engages educators, administrators, and parents alike. This idea was emphasized by the participants of a two-day Child Protection Professional Learning Institute, hosted by Lincoln Community School (LCS) in Accra, Ghana in October of 2015.
Sponsored by the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA), the Institute brought together teachers and school administrators from across the continent to discuss child protection policy planning and implementation.
During the two-day event, resources and curricula were reviewed and adapted, action plans were developed to bring back to schools for immediate use, and innovative ideas were shared by school professionals dedicated to the safety of children.
During the Child Protection Institute, educators and administrators from around Africa were provided with information, strategies, and resources to engage stakeholders in understanding the need for a comprehensive Child Protection Program. The participants were made up of representatives of various AISA schools, including two LCS staff, who are part of the AISA Child Protection working group. The sole mission of this group is to continue developing programming and awareness across the African continent.
LCS takes its child protection policy very seriously and has been a leader in Accra, forming the Child Rights Advocacy Network (CRAN). Members of CRAN meet quarterly to discuss programs and practices related to child protection and discuss case studies.
CRAN, spearheaded by LCS Head of School, Dr. Dennis Larkin, and his wife, Dr. Lois Engelbrecht, has engaged more than 20 participants with varyious experiences in child protection policy at their respective schools.
According to Dr. Engelbrecht, while entities such as CRAN have made considerable progress, “a major factor inhibiting further progress is the lack of data about the experiences of children related to violence, crime and abuse. There is therefore a need to encourage more schools to participate in school-wide research about child protection.”
The difficulty in obtaining data was discussed during several sessions in the Institute. Participants wrote curricula, developed structures for educating parents, and made plans for engaging multi-disciplinary teams of professionals.
Each day began with a plenary session focusing on child abuse and neglect and defining the issues within the international education setting. Following that, four individual concurrent modules were held. The two-day learning modules focused on distinct components of a comprehensive child protection program for international schools. Participants focused on components such as “Partnerships between Principal, Curriculum Coordinator, Counselor, and Classroom Teacher at the Elementary School level,” and “Facing Secondary School Curriculum Integration Challenges.” Another module discussed the need to ensure successful implementation within secondary school structures. The modules also included the topic of how to engage parents in child protection programs at schools.
During the Child Protection Learning Institute, secondary school counselors, one teacher, and one high school principal collaborated to review the research about effective child protection programs at the secondary level, spotlighting curriculum modules and four major components of a comprehensive child protection program.
Participants shared specific strategies to integrate child protection lesson modules within a master schedule and discipline platforms of middle and high school programs in international schools. They also examined the AISA Child Protection curriculum modules, reflected on curriculum currently in place at their schools, and began the process of revising lessons based on the conversations and the research presented.
During sessions related to “Elementary School: The Essential Partnership,” participants spent two days exploring how teachers, counselors, and administrators can support each other in the goal of making child protection a priority in elementary schools.
In addition to organizing discussions around child protection themes, having a school vision and leadership that strongly believes in the need for an all-encompassing Child Protection Policy is an essential requirement in making progress.
LCS Head Dennis Larkin, has advocated for this since joining LCS. In his more than five years at the helm, Dr. Larkin has developed strong policies and procedures within curriculum units of study to equip students with the skills, knowledge, and understanding related to safe behaviors and how to get help when needed.
According to Dr. Larkin, the most practical approach is for all schools to have a comprehensive child protection program for the students and community as a whole. One of the tools used to achieve this in Africa has been the publication of the AISA Child Protection Handbook funded by a grant from the Office of Overseas Schools.
“There is good evidence that this work is having an impact locally, across Africa, and even in other regions of the globe,” explained Dr. Larkin. With regard to the issue, he states, “The little research that I have been able to gather shows that our students experience a lot more violence and abuse than in the U.S. How accurate this is can only be discovered when schools allow their students to respond to questions.”
Over the years, Dr. Engelbrecht, who is a founder and board member of the Center for the Prevention of Child Sex Abuse in Quezon City, Philippines and an expert in child protection advocacy and program development, has worked with local programs and international schools in Malaysia, Vietnam, India, and China.

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