An update from the Drop-in Centre in Gweru
May 25 2017

The Gweru Drop-in Centre caters to the needs of the city’s street children, aiming to rehabilitate them into mainstream society and education, reunifying them with their families, and providing a meal every week day.  Through ALERT, a Basic Life Skills course was introduced to help students develop ‘soft skills’ that will support them in their lives.

As one of the aims of the Drop-in Centre is to reunite street children with their families, wherever possible, some of last month’s sessions focused on social interaction.  The children are slowly becoming more comfortable speaking about their personal lives, which we hope will aid this goal of reunification. 

Another session focused on teamwork, recapping work covered previously on the STRIPE course last year.  The objectives were:

  • To encourage teamwork
  • For students to understand the meaning of teamwork
  • For students to understand the importance of teamwork

To determine how much students remembered from previous lessons on this topic, they were asked to explain their understanding of teamwork; their response in Shona was “mushandirapamwe”, meaning “working together”.  They were then asked why they thought it was important for them to work together.  Responses included:

  • It helps with problem solving
  • It teaches honesty and trust
  • It allows for sharing a variety of ideas from different team members
  • It improves communication
  • Teaches respect for other people and their various opinions and ideas
  • Working towards a common goal as a team increases productivity

To consolidate the lesson, an activity called the Human Knot was played in two teams.  The goal of the game is to figure out how to untangle the human knot without letting go of each other’s hands.  It promotes team building, communication and problem solving, as well as acting as an ice breaker encouraging the children to get to know each other better.

Team one initially started off with everyone shouting at once, but soon realised that that would not work.  They then let each person have a turn to speak.  Team two, however, were organised from the start.  One of the boys stepped up as the leader, reminding the others that one person needed to speak at a time and everyone needed to listen so that they could solve the problem in the quickest way possible.  As a result of these good communication skills, they unknotted themselves faster and won the game.  The students thoroughly enjoyed this activity, understanding the concept and asking to play the game over and over again.

A project has been undertaken by Drop-in Centre staff to make a barbeque and picnic area at the orphanage garden site on Antelope Park land.  The local community will then pay a small fee to use these facilities, therefore making this project income-generating.

Part of the project involves building some simple structures using soil-filled plastic bottles bound together with cement.  It is a tried and tested method of building everything from walls to entire houses. Furthermore, by using the plastic bottles this way, the project is contributing to the protection of the environment.

The street children, along with project volunteers and staff, have been spending time at the garden to assist with this project, carrying out tasks such as digging trenches, filling bottles with sand and helping the builder lay them.  The children have been collecting bottles from the streets of Gweru, while local clubs and schools are also being approached to collect.  This is a very positive initiative, as the whole community is involved to recycle and contribute to conserving the environment, tying in with our goal of providing free conservation lessons at the ALERT Education Centre.

Rural youth development at the Ebenezer Trust works explicitly to improve self-reliance and human capital in their local community.  The Trust has been running an agribusiness training centre for local youth since 2007.  Located in Mablauwuni village in the dry Matopos area of Matabeleland South, it runs a two-year full-time apprenticeship that enables young people (17 to 23-year-olds) to start and run their own small-scale agribusinesses, while providing a curriculum of business studies, mathematics, English and agriculture.  Mornings are spent in the fields doing practical work, with afternoons devoted to lessons.  During their first months, the apprentices also gain basic skills in agribusiness.

The system is based on the principle of “earn while you learn”.  After six months, each apprentice is allocated a small plot of land on which to grow their own cash crops (tomatoes, onions, beans, cabbages, etc).  A contract is entered into between the apprentice, a distributor and an agro-processing company, who provide the initial inputs.  The apprentice sells their produce to the buyer - a guaranteed market - and is paid based on a production reward which is approximately 50% of the profits.  These rewards are put aside until graduation, which means that the apprentices are able to save the capital needed to start their own business.  Once they can afford to independently purchase their own inputs, they keep a higher share of the profit.  By the end of the two-year period, successful apprentices will have managed to save money to buy their own tools and should have enough to start their own small agribusiness on their return home.  This system encourages patience, discipline, forward-planning and entrepreneurial behaviour.

The Centre is committed to supporting the economic and social development of participating youth, and promoting business ethics and self-sufficiency in the local community.  Many innovative projects have been launched in the community as a result of training, including broiler production projects and small-scale commercial horticulture schemes.  The Ebenezer Trust is dedicated to building capacity at the local level and encouraging people to be self-sufficient.

Following an interview, five young boys living on the street were sent on a two-day ‘boot camp’ to Ebenezer.  They were required to demonstrate certain abilities in terms of physical fitness, communication and interpersonal skills.  Three of boys, Patrick who has been on the street for seven years, Andrew for five years and Munyaradzi for just a few weeks, have all made the grade and will be starting an apprenticeship this July.  We wish them every success as they embark on this exciting project.  A huge thank you to ALERT Ambassador Alan Calder-McNicoll for spearheading the whole process and handling it from start to finish.  This is the first time the Ebenezer Trust has accepted street children for an apprenticeship, so it is a great achievement for all involved.


About the Basic Life Skills Course

The aim of the Basic Life Skills Course is to assist children and adolescents to gain essential skills needed to operate effectively in society in an active and constructive way.  Topics in the course include; self-esteem, coping with stress, effective communication, decision making, problem solving and non-violent conflict resolution.  The course has been developed by David Brackstone of John Taylor High School, UK using a programme in use at that school and adapted for use in our schools in Africa.

About ALERT Education Centres (AEC)

Basic Life Skills courses are one aspect of the work of our ALERT Education Centres.  The AEC operations at Livingstone (Zambia), Victoria Falls and Antelope Park (Zimbabwe) are all aimed at supporting the formal education system by offering extra-curricular activities to enhance student learning, and assisting with access to education for vulnerable students.  Current programs include the provision of classes in conservation education, basic life skills, and English literacy.  In addition, we provide funding to pay the fees of vulnerable students to take part in education from pre-school to university level, and fully funded internship and facilitated research placements for university level students.  Future programmes will incorporate classes in numeracy, health & nutrition, physical education and business studies/entrepreneurship, as well as a variety of vocational training.  The AEC is operated in association with Coventry University (UK), Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) and Copperbelt University (Zambia), and with the assistance of David Brackstone of John Taylor High School (UK).   The first AEC, at Antelope Park, was opened in 2012 by the then Zimbabwe Minister of Education, Mr. David Coltart.

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