Child Protection Alliance (CPA) yesterday called for a child protection policy
in schools, at the education stakeholders training session held at the Regional
Education Directorate in Kanifing.
The three-day training activity was orgainised for education stakeholders on the development of a child protection policy and procedures and on child rights and protection.
The participants were teachers, parents and students drawn from five schools, and the workshop was funded by the British Embassy.
Lamin K. Saidy, project coordinator of British Embassy Bilateral Fund and CPA Youth Coordinator, said the child protection policies and reporting guidelines place an obligation on the school authorities to fully protect children, train staff on the policy and ensure its effective implementation.
Ultimately, he added, schools would become safe havens for children.
“Advocacy will be done within the Ministry of basic and secondary education to oblige all schools to have in place a child protection policy, with an active popularisation and the existence of a non-threatening reporting procedure, which will reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment within the school settings.
“The programme is one that will engage teachers, students and school management committees (SMCs) to understand the basic concepts of child rights and child protection. It is important because we know the realities on the ground, and we will be engaging you and discussing with you what child rights means from your perspective to the conventional principles laid down, when it comes to the interpretation of what child rights means.”
Saidy added: “We will also be clearing some misconceptions in relation to child rights and protection in this country. We will also be exposing you to some of the child protection issues in The Gambia and within the school settings, as well as the communities.”
They hope that after the completion of the project, it would contribute to the existence of child protection systems within educational settings, which would provide a safety net and a protective environment for all children in schools, he continued.
Claudiana A. Cole, Regional Educational Director, said it is a training session, but as it was participatory, that being the case, they would call it a discussion or a bantaba.
It is a very important discussion, she added, because it is one that is going to facilitate the development of a policy on child protection, and the procedures that would have to be put in place and be followed.
She added that it was very important for all the stakeholders responsible for child protection, and that they could not talk about child protection in the absence of the parent. Parents are the most important, because they are the custodian of the children, she continued.
They could not also talk about child protection in the absence of the teachers, because from the first home where the parents are responsible for the children, they go to the second home, which is the school.
Kaddijatou Jallow, CPA programme officer, said CPA is a child rights coalition with about 30 member organisations, which are child-led organisations that work with children and for children.
“When we talk about child rights we are looking at the universal right that each and every one of us is entitled to. We have rights as parents, and they also have rights as children. In child rights activism, we have four guiding principles that we work on and apply on our day-to-day activities.
“We have the principles of non-discrimination wherein parents, governments and stakeholders, who should discriminate any child based on their religion, colour, parent’s nationality, and tribe.
“The other one is respecting the needs of the child, pursuing their best interest and protection of their life, survival and development,” she added.