The school is a significant personal and social environment in the lives of its students. A child-friendly school ensures every child an environment that is physically safe, emotionally secure and psychologically enabling. Teachers are the single most important factor in creating an effective and inclusive classroom. Children are natural learners, but this capacity to learn can be undermined and sometimes destroyed. A child-friendly school recognizes, encourages and supports children's growing capacities as learners by providing a school culture, teaching behaviours and curriculum content that are focused on learning and the learner. Child-friendly schools aim to develop a learning environment in which children are motivated and able to learn. Staff members are friendly and welcoming to children and attend to all their health and safety needs.
Experience has demonstrated that there are no short cuts to addressing the issue of quality education. Improving quality requires a multi-pronged strategy involving improvements in school as well as educational system. This includes supporting interventions like enhancements to the curricular package, the teaching-learning environment and fostering positive school-community linkages. Successful quality initiatives require local, area based planning and management that require specific skills such as strategic and participatory planning, mobilisation, utilisation of available resources and willingness to be held accountable.
Child friendly school as a concept fosters democratisation of education. It seeks to provide a healthy, hygienic, safe and happy environment for children to learn. It promotes classroom activities and behaviour that is gender sensitive and results in effective learning. It positively incorporates the involvement of children, families and communities in their children’s schooling. 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 or no sanitation. Others lack competent teachers and appropriate curricula. Still others 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. A school is considered “child friendly” when it provides a safe, clean, healthy and protective environment for children.
The three decades of conflict in the valley have confined children from having their free space where they could grow freely. The situation is alarming and no separate space or facilities are in sight for children to spend time. The need of the hour is that our schools have to act as child friendly spaces. School facilities are one of the basic educational requirements, and it is necessary to maintain safe and high-quality school facilities from the perspective of maintaining and improving educational levels in line with the developmental stage. In order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences they need to be provided with such rights-based — or child-friendly — schools which not only must help children realize their right to a basic education of good quality. But also they need to do many other things — help children learn what they need to learn to face the challenges of the new century; enhance their health and well-being; guarantee them safe and protective spaces for learning, free from violence and abuse. These spaces must promote quality learning outcomes -- encourages children to think critically, ask questions, express their opinions -- and learn how to learn; helps children master the essential enabling skills of writing, reading, speaking, listening, including useful traditional knowledge and the values of peace and the acceptance of diversity. It must provide education based on the reality of children’s lives -- ensures that curricular content responds to the learning needs of individual children as well as to the general objectives of the education system and the local context and traditional knowledge of families and the community
Child Friendly Spaces not only allow children to learn and play, but also serve as a medium for them to connect with their culture and history and it can bring last changing in the development of children.
(The author is assistant professor at IMPA, Srinagar)