Child-Friendly Schools And Quality Education

On any given day, more than one billion ofthe world’s children go to school. Whether they sit in buildings,in tents or even under trees,ideally they are learning,developing and enriching their lives.

For too many children, though,school is not always a positive experience.Some endure difficult conditions,like extremely hot or cold temperatures in the classroom or primitive sanitation.

Others lack competent teachers and appropriate curricula.Some may be forced to contend with discrimination,harassment and even violence.These conditions are not conducive to learning or development,and no child should have to experience them.

UNICEF is profoundly committed to securing safe,rights-based,quality education for each and every child, irrespective of his or her circumstances.We understand that schools are not ‘one size fits all’ institutions, and that children have diverse needs.With this in mind, we have striven to create a comprehensive, multifaceted and dynamic educational model aimed at helping schools achieve safe,healthy and protective environments that meet the specific needs of their children.


The Child-Friendly School(CFS) model is a simple one at heart:Schools should operate in the best interests of the child. Educational environments must be safe, healthy and protective,endowed with trained teachers, adequate resources and appropriate physical,emotional and social conditions for learning.Within them,children’s rights must be protected and their voices must be heard. Learning environments must be a haven for children to learn and grow, with innate respect for their identities and varied needs.The CFS model promotes inclusiveness,gender-sensitivity,tolerance,dignity and personal empowerment.

CFS environments build upon the assets that children bring from their homes and communities,respecting their unique backgrounds and circumstances.At the sametime, the CFS model compensates for any short comings in the home and community that might make it difficult for children to enrol in school, attend regularly and succeed in their studies.For example, if there is a food shortage in the community,school-feeding programs can provide children both with the nutrition they so critically need and the incentive to stay in school and get an education.

Child-friendly classroom at one ofthe private school

Learning environments must be a haven forchildren to learn andgrow, with innate respect for their identities and varied needs.


 The CFS model also builds partnerships between schools and the community.Since children have the right to be fully prepared to become active and productive citizens, their learning must be linked to the wider community.

At the national level,governments can encourage the development of child-friendly schools by promoting free enrolment, passing regulations that prohibit corporal punishment,encouraging the use of local languages in schools,integrating disabled children into mainstream schools, allowing pregnant students to complete their education,and mandating that children living with HIV and AIDS have a right to attend school and continue learning.


In the past decade, the CFS approach has become the main model through which UNICEF and its partners promote quality education in normal as well as emergency situations.UNICEF provides Schoolin-a-Box kits to temporary child friendly learning spaces to help children recover from trauma and maintain a sense of normalcy by continuing their education.

Indeed, there is no single way to make a school child friendly.The model may differ from country to country,but the common denominator across cultures is a focus on child-centred educationin a safe,healthy and holistic environment.

CFS are designed so that children feel safe, secure and protected and have an environment where learning can become fun.The model builds partnerships between schools and the community.CFS is a cross cutting model that can be applied in different countries and cultures.The framework can be utilized in both formal and non-formal education.


The success of our work in implementing the CFS model largely depends on partnerships with other actors in the international arena.Together, we can help ensure that every child - regardless of whether he or she attends school in a building,a tent or under a tree- receives a rights-based,quality education.

In Southern Sudan,for instance,these principles are included in the ‘Go to School’ initiative launched by the Government in 2006 with support from donors,UNICEF and other UN agencies.Aiming to enrol 1.6 million out-of-school children by the end of 2007,the initiative embraces such child-friendly principles as teacher training,school-supply distribution, and establishing water and sanitation facilities.

Temporary child-friendly learning spaces,provided with‘schools-in-a-box’ and other basic educational materials, are part of a larger UNICEF-supported initiative to ensure schooling during emergencies.To help children recover from traumatic experiences and continue their education,these spaces provide physical and emotional protection,along with asense of normalcy.

The number of countries adopting the CFS model had increased sincer 2004.In East Asia and the Pacific, a number of countries have integrated CFS standards into national policies or education-sector investment plans.In China, psychological protection and emergency response are incorporated into national standards for Child-Friendly Schools.

CFS is a broad approach that UNICEF has adopted as a way of building quality education in schools.In the past decade, it has been used by many UNICEF offices and has become the main model through which UNICEF and other partners promote quality education in normal as well as emergency situations (child-friendly learning spaces).

The CFS for Africa Programme is a multicountry programme comprised of the governments of six countries: Angola, Malawi,Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe.The programme is supported by UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation,and the Hamburg Society for the Promotion of Democracy and International Law.Its purpose is to support the accelerated promotion of quality basic education for all children.The programme supports school construction and rehabilitation and provides educational materials.It also develops the capacities of teachers and strengthens school governance and management.

The rapid growth of interest and commitment to this model has resulted in the development of a UNICEF CFS and learning spaces Manual and E-learning Package launched in 2007.These capacity-building tools are designed for education policy makers,planners and practitioners, with the intent of strengthening and systematizing education systems and building national capacity for implementing CFS standards,as well as strengthening UNICEF education staff capacity for quality interventions.

To ensure that schools retain their position as centres for learning and essential services,UNICEF works to strengthen partnerships,expand the CFS model globally, and reinforce mutual learning,research and documentation of good practices. Current partners include UNESCO,United Nations Girls’Education Initiative, the World Bank and the World Food Programme,Hamburg Society for the Promotion of Democracy and International Law, Nelson Mandela Foundation,the African Union, New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Southern African Development Community and the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team on Education.