Getting Along Together
November 4 2016

The Gweru Drop-in Centre caters to the needs of Gweru’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 well as a positive attitude towards work, it is vital that students develop the social skills to get along with their peers and colleagues.  With this in mind, a recent lesson was aimed at defining conflict and bullying, seeking to understand others’ feelings, and finding suitable ways to deal with bullying. 

The lesson began with the students discussing what conflict actually is, deciding to define it as ‘something that causes a disagreement between two or more parties’.  They determined that bullying was a repeated form of conflict, which targets someone with the intention of making them unhappy.  Examples of bullying were discussed, including causing bodily harm (kicking, punching), calling someone a name they don’t like, or spreading rumours about someone.  These were categorised into physical and verbal abuse.

Learners were then asked to discuss the feelings they thought would result from being bullied.  They identified low self-esteem, sadness and loneliness.  In smaller groups, when asked if they had experienced any type of bullying, most students admitted to having been bullied either physically or verbally at some point in their lives.  Living on the street is difficult at the best of times, but it is considerably harder when bullying is involved, as there is no support system in place to help children through it.  As a result, many students stated that they never feel fully safe and that, because they are ostracised by society, they believe going to the police for help is not an option for them.

A further discussion focused on ways to deal with bullying.  Various solutions were discussed, including:

1.      Telling an adult: as students have support when they attend the Drop-in Centre, they were encouraged to go there to confide in an adult if they are being bullied themselves, know of someone who is being bullied, or to report a bully.

2.      Showing disapproval to the bully: by letting the bully know their behaviour is unacceptable, by not encouraging the bully by laughing at his actions, or by simply walking away and ignoring the bully.

3.      Buddy system: getting a group of friends together to support each other against bullying.

This lesson was of particular benefit to the students, as it resonated with their daily lives on the street.  It also appears to have had a positive effect on their social skills.  Since then, staff at the Drop-in Centre have noticed a change in the majority of the boys’ behaviour; there are fewer fights, less name calling, more boys standing up for each other against trouble makers, and orderly lines while the children are waiting to collect their lunch.


About Kids Club

Kids Club is our opportunity to implement our Basic Life Skills Course.  The aim of the 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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