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LIFE SKILLS UPDATE 1st QUARTER

In the first term 0f 2018, the Life Skills Programme mentors taught a total of 174 lessons as part of the HIV/AIDS prevention programme under the Life Orientation syllabus with the goal of impacting the lives of children who are vulnerable and under threat of HIV/AIDS. The programme aims to assist with these primary school and Grade 8 children’s physical, cognitive, emotional and relational support and development.

Pursuing Life Skills’ vison to see the school children growing in confidence to make good life choices, the team met with Chelsea Primary School’s management to learn about their service leadership system. As a result, meetings followed with Nhlonipho Primary School management which gave the go-ahead to establish a leadership development team with three meetings being held in Term 1 with the 30-strong prefect team. The leadership training has a major focus of helping the prefects change their mind-set from that of disciplinarian to that of mentor and servant-leader.  Strong emphasis is placed on exploring what service and relationship mean. To strengthen and widen the children’s leadership abilities, planning has been done with EDGE Training for leadership training on a weekend away at Camp Anerly for the prefect body in the second school term.

Looking to provide opportunity for ‘Protective Behaviours’ training, the Life Skills are exploring this to see if it is feasible for inclusion in its programme in the schools. To facilitate this, small groups will be run at break times to create awareness in the children of abusive behaviour (physical, verbal, emotional and the 21st century scourge of cyber-bullying) and how to keep themselves safe from the potential abuse. Although apps and social networking sites state that bullying, abusive behaviours which includes harassment, impersonation and identity theft are banned and not allowed, surveys show over 90% of people reporting cyber bullying said that no action was taken. These people are left feeling disbelieved, vulnerable and their self-esteem damaged. The Life Skills team provides one-on-one counselling with learners who approach the Youth Workers or are identified by them or who are referred by teachers in an effort to respect and maintain the children’s privacy and integrity.

To have its own expertise and abilities strengthened, the team attended the Imbizo Foundation’s three day facilitation training course focusing on self-discovery, classroom management and various learning styles. Imbizo’s stated mission is to restore a sense of identity, belonging and purpose in the lives of young South Africans. The Life Skills team also attended a two day introduction to counselling training to improve the skills for greater effectiveness in interaction and support to vulnerable adults and children and to be in a stronger position to address issues with the school children and with their parents.

The programme understands the critical role evaluation and monitoring of what it does in the schools. Research into these areas is ongoing and more effective ways to show the success of the Life Skills intervention are being pursued.  Part of this is to develop a learner profile to act as an early-warning indicator for orphaned and vulnerable children, an absenteeism profile and ways of measuring self-esteem and attitudes toward gender. Leigh-Ann Stevens, leader of Life Skills, says, ”Behavioural change programmes are difficult as there are so many variable influences from family and community that affect children as they grow and develop. It is so pleasing, however, to have reports from teachers that the pupils on our programme are notably more respectful, attentive in class and disciplined.” The Life Skills team agreed that these comments from the schools about positively changed lives inspire them to push on with the expectation that so many more lives can be impacted through the Life Skills programme.

There is a pressing need for the children on the Life Skills programme to be exposed to stimulating teaching methods and so, with three laptop computers having been donated and two portable projectors and two speakers sourced, the Life Skills team is now well-equipped to use technology in lessons. Through the use of technology, learning opportunities can be enhanced in the classroom. Technology in the classroom setting prepares pupils for an increasingly digital future. Training of the Life Skills mentors on effective use of technology took place at the end of March and implementation of this new look teaching is set to go.

For further information on the Life Skills programme, please contact Leigh-Ann Stevens (leigh-ann@domino.org.za).