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16 August 2022
UWC dedicated to care and support for teaching and learning
Sub-Saharan Africa has, according to UNESCO, the highest rate of education exclusion, with more than a fifth of children between six and 11 not attending school. Statistics estimate that about 60% of teenagers between 15 and 17 are out of school. 
 
Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) is a regional initiative adopted by the member states of the Southern African Development Community. The initiative has been developed to realise the educational rights of children and build human capital for sustainable development by ensuring that every school becomes a site of transformational, quality and inclusive education. 

Recently the University of the Western Cape (UWC) was invited to be a partner in a research programme launched by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and MIET (Africa) in collaboration with the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) and the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT). The research programme aims to contribute specifically to growing the knowledge and evidence base of CSTL; building leadership and implementation capacity for CSTL; and strengthening the system for effective delivery of school-based care and support services. 

The invitation was the outcome of a workshop organised by the Department of Educational Psychology under the leadership of Professor Ansie Kitching, in collaboration with Professor Finn Reagan from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in January 2022. The workshop was attended by staff and postgraduate students in the department. The objective of this workshop was to discuss the alignment of research in the department with the CSTL National Policy Framework. Representatives from MIET (Africa) and the DBE were invited to participate, and the interactions sparked discussions about a research programme into the implementation of the framework. The research programme was launched in March 2022 and involved two partner universities: the University of Johannesburg and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

In June 2022, the Department of Educational Psychology at UWC organised a foundation training workshop for staff and postgraduate students at the UWC campus to deepen our understanding of the implementation of CSTL and the alignment with our research foci. Thirty-two participants attended - twenty face-to-face and twelve online - comprising two research interns, fifteen Honours, six Master's and four PhD students, one postdoctoral fellow and four lecturers. The training focused on developing the capacity of researchers who are practising educators to respond to and address priority issues related to CSTL.

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Maureen King, a seasoned trainer from MIET (Africa), assisted by Ntongolozi Bembe, facilitated the training. The training was presented within an ethos of care which contributed to a high level of interaction between participants and facilitators, whose experiences enriched the learning process. The invited presenters provided rich and relevant information, which enhanced a better understanding of how to incorporate the CSTL framework within their contexts to ensure that they take responsibility (become agents) for enhancing care and support. The staff and students found the training informative and grounded in the real-life experiences of schools. They also reported a clearer understanding of identifying the various vulnerabilities experienced by learners and connecting the CSTL pillars, and how to establish vulnerability responses in the school context. Most participants indicated they would like more in-depth training on applying the guidelines. Therefore, the department plans a follow-up workshop to discuss the implementation of the CSTL Handbook and ways to harmonise implementing policies that could enhance CSTL in their own contexts. A Community of Practice will also be established to ensure the sustainable development of a research cohort at UWC.

The Director of Inclusive Education represented the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), and her discussion enhanced insight into the WCED’s implementation strategies. The Dean of the Education Faculty, Professor Rajendran Govender, pledged his support for the CSTL research programme and encouraged the exploration of implementing CSTL training in the undergraduate programmes at UWC.