Caregivers’ course offered to eight African states

2010-05-18 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG has been put on the map in terms for its work with children at risk in Africa, allowing people from marginalised communities across the continent the opportunity of post-schooling education.

The African Centre for Childhood — a partnership between the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Regional Psycho Social Support Initiative — has been running a distance learning certificate programme in eight African countries over the past year.

The course awards each successful student with a certificate entitled “Working with Children, Families and Communities Affected by HIV and AIDS, Poverty, Conflict and Displacement”. The programme focuses on current theories in the sector and on imparting practical skills.

The dean of the faculty of humanities, development and social sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal academics and a team from the African Centre for Childhood have just returned from eight southern and eastern African countries where they awarded students with certificates.

Fiona Bulman, director of the African Centre for Childhood, said “this innovative programme has achieved remarkable success”.

“Ninety percent of the 500 plus students who participated completed the programme and have been awarded UKZN faculty of humanities short course certificates.” After closely monitoring the programme, independent evaluators, the South African Institute of Distance Education, said: “There is now a sizeable group of caregivers in the region who have been deemed competent to respond to the many challenges of working with vulnerable children.

“The programme has had a profound positive influence on the students and the majority have shown a growing awareness of what is involved in a human rights-based approach to caring for vulnerable children in their own contexts.”

The students were previously volunteers and community workers. “This programme not only offers them a chance to hone their skills, but places them on a clear path for further educational development and a chance at a career.

“Early reports show that some students have already moved from volunteer status to paid employment as a direct result of the course,” said Bulman.

Due to the success of the pilot programme, phase two will commence in July 2010 involving over 1 000 students in 10 countries.

“The emphasis on this second stage of delivery is to include local education institutions in five of the 10 countries to ensure that the certificate is recognised locally, thus working towards professionalising this sector.

Over 50 representatives from the 10 countries will converge on the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus for a three-day workshop beginning tomorrow.

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