Introduction to the CBE: purpose and characteristics
CBE classrooms provide out-of-school, vulnerable and excluded children ages 6-9 and chiefly girls, with alternative child-friendly places to learn where they are unable to access the formal school. While these classrooms are expected to meet academic standards in a purposively safe and secure learning environment, it is recognized that these classrooms face significant challenges. They are in typically nonstandard structures e.g. community homes, with students often not intellectually or emotionally ready to engage in standard learning arrangements, with limited resources for helping them or their teachers to accommodate diverse learning, psycho-social and physical needs; and modest support of supervisors, in-service professional development or teacher peers.
Coordination of CBE implementation, initially by design and now necessarily by default, is fully decentralised. Programme delivery and quality are ultimately responsive and accountable to the community, with their Shura responsible for monitoring and mentoring, progressively along with parents and community leaders. As they become available, local resources should be supported by implementing partners (IP), technical extenders (TE) and academic supervisors.
Where possible, CBE are clustered, allowing for professional exchange and moral support, shared expertise and resources and, critically in this case, collaborative advocacy and efficient action in assessing natural and man-made risk and putting in place viable safety and security measures – including tools and training.
Teachers are expected to be trained in child-centred pedagogy, both concepts and methods, and including clear and practical strategies for safeguarding children and fostering resilience. It is not clear how much of the 14-day curriculum is currently being delivered in CBE and to what effect in terms of classroom behaviour; or if safeguarding, resilience and socio-emotional learning (SEL) contents are being covered.
Core messages underlying all of these CSSF guidelines should be included in any training materials developed for the CBE, for Shura and for teachers. Mentoring teachers in ways of managing children’s earning and well-being are crucial in the new context of change and uncertainty, including strategies for keeping them physically safe and psycho-socially secure. Their learning should not happen solely in a single 2-week training event, but be integrated within all interactions with teachers over the course of a semester, paying attention to the reality that teachers themselves are likely to be increasingly vulnerable to stress and disorientation and so making use of responsive, adult learning methods essential.
It is essential that all actions taken to create and maintain CBE classrooms re-enforce community ownership as the necessary condition for effective implementation and continuity. This means, among other things, being clear about what is needed to protect children and to help them protect themselves, realistic about what is achievable and, from there, engaging with the community and families to understand and commit to core actions needed.