For quality learning to take place at the primary and secondary school levels, countries need to have robust protection frameworks for children. Children, society’s most vulnerable members, need to be educated, nurtured, and protected. This is a basic social requirement with long-term socioeconomic benefits. A failure to properly protect children from all forms of abuse can impose severe mental and physical damage on the children concerned and creates social and economic costs. However, by investing in the protection of children, countries preserve and enhance their human capital, which can over the long term improve economic productivity.
In common with governments around the world, GCC governments are seeking to ensure a high level of child protection. Some of this requires refining the legislative framework. It may also involve raising awareness of the problem within communities, so that people are able to effectively detect and report child abuse. Education also plays a role. It is important to ensure that school officials do not worry about reporting suspicions of child maltreatment and that they feel confident that cases will be dealt with expeditiously and professionally. GCC countries are becoming more proactive and are launching child protection initiatives. Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, GCC governments have recently developed some initiatives to strengthen child protection.
For these efforts to be successful and gain the expected benefits, it is important that governments understand the pillars of successful child protection, and that they tackle the topic as a whole, in a systematic and comprehensive manner. Child protection involves measures and structures designed to prevent and respond to maltreatment that come together in six main functions.
The first step is to detect/suspect maltreatment, which implies recognizing signs of abuse or neglect. This step is followed by the reporting of the detected/suspected cases to the relevant authorities. Once a case is reported, an investigation takes place to determine appropriate interventions, which could include removing the child from harm or providing end-to-end victim support services (monitoring and intervention). Records of the case should be properly and confidentially maintained by the relevant entities and officials throughout the process. In addition to dealing with cases in an appropriate way, child protection also involves preventing maltreatment in the first place, which implies a continuous effort to raise awareness of the issue and develop safeguarding mechanisms.
For these child protection functions to be effective, governments need an overarching framework of laws, policies, and structures. In particular they need:
- a solid governance model
- unified standards for the definition and identification of maltreatment
- mandated — but safe — reporting
- confidentiality in information management
- safe recruitment of school staff
- the introduction of child protection notions into the curriculum
- the designation of Child Protection Liaison Officers (CPLOs) at schools