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.
Lessons in June focused on stress management, recapping what the students had learned during last year’s S.T.R.I.P.E course. To assess what they had remembered, they were asked to describe what stress is. Those children who had participated in earlier lessons stated that stress is when one feels worried or uncomfortable about something. When asked how stress makes them feel, they responded with the words angry, frustrated and scared.
Satisfied that students understood the concept of stress, they were then asked the question, “What do you think you can do to manage your stress in the right way?” Responses included:
By pinpointing the reason for being stressed, for example, I am stressed because I am living on the streets? If so ask, Why am I living on the streets? Is it because of family issues, problems with money, etc?
- By thinking of solutions to what is causing the stress, for example, talking with family to try and resolve issues
- By finding someone you trust to share your problems and stress with
- By exercising to help improve your mood and sleep more easily
- By socialising and interacting with other people to stop you being lonely and dwelling on your problems
Some of the students who had not participated in previous lessons on stress management suggested ways to cope with stress which would have a negative effect on well-being, for example alcohol and drug abuse. Our community team was pleased to see that other students were vocal in their disagreement; informing their peers that, once the effects of drugs and alcohol wears off, you are still left with the issue that is causing the stress.
As positive social interaction with children living on the street plays a vital role in gaining their trust and learning how best to support them, the students were asked to identify the causes of their own stress. They came up with the following list:
- Not having warm clothes and blankets
- Not always having food to eat
- Being bullied
- Relationship problems
- Being unable to support their children (some students are young mothers with infants who live with them on the streets)
In an attempt to address the real-life issues affecting these young people - abuse, teenage pregnancy, HIV and AIDS - they were shown a short documentary entitled ‘Hope’, about a young girl who was raped by a family friend at the age of 12. As a result, she not only became pregnant, but also contracted HIV. Her child died a year after birth so, by the age of 14, she was a HIV patient, a rape victim, and a bereaved mother. After intensive counselling, this young woman now works with Zimbabwe-based organisations, dealing with child abuse, youth empowerment, and counselling people with HIV and AIDS.
Afterwards, students were asked the lessons they had learnt from the documentary. All gave positive responses that demonstrate an awareness of the importance of taking control over their own lives:
- Getting tested for HIV and AIDS is vital, so that you are aware of your status
- It is important to seek help and talk to someone if something bad has happened to you
- That no matter what has happened, you have to try to remain as positive as possible
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.
Join us at the AEC
There are a number of ways you can join our AEC projects to assist in the delivery of the AECs various programmes. Click on the following links for further information:
- Those with some teaching experience can join our Teaching in Africa internship
- Researchers interested in assisting us assess AEC programmes can join our Research in the Community Internship
- If your interest is in teaching about conservation, you can also join the programme as a Conservation Education Intern
- Even if you have no teaching experience, there is still much you can do to help deliver our various courses as part of our volunteer programmes
Support the AEC
If you would like to support the activities of our AEC operations please click here.