The Gweru Drop-In Centre exists with the aim of rehabilitating street children into mainstream society and education, and reunifying them with their families. A community kitchen at the Centre caters for the city’s destitute with a free meal each weekday. Without it, they would go hungry and many would be forced into criminal activities to survive. To compliment this programme, ALERT introduced a Basic Life Skills course to help positively mould the character of these young adults, thereby impacting their future by making them sensible, reliable, trustworthy and employable.
The recent focus has been to teach students to identify qualities that are good for managing themselves and how it can be useful. A variety of activities are used during the lessons to assist learning. Recently these have included:
Literacy focus: A word search containing both positive and negative self-management traits was handed to the children. Their task was to identify the difference between positive and negative character traits and mark all the positive words in one colour and all the negative words in a different colour.
Emotions Part One: Faces depicting different emotions were drawn on different pieces of paper. Students were divided into groups and tasked with using the words from the word search, or any other word they could think of, to describe the emotion depicted and write the word next to the emoticon. Every few minutes, the groups would rotate to a different picture, read the words already written, decide if they agree with them or not, and add more words if they could think of any. Students then discussed with volunteers and staff some situations they experienced relating to the emotions.
Emotions Part Two: Pupils were asked to draw the opposite of a sad face and label it with as many words as they could come up with. This was to determine whether pupils could tie opposite emotions together, meaning they could clearly understand the meaning of the emotions shown. Pupils were then asked if they thought being a good self manager would result in them being happy or sad, they all chimed in with the word HAPPY.
Emotions Part Three: Students were asked to explain their picture of a good self manager. Students stated that being helpful to others and assisting them with chores such as washing cars or dishes were examples of being a good self manager as being helpful is a positive character trait. They were then asked to explain their idea of a bad self manager. Pupils gave examples of being uncooperative i.e. not getting involved in or not attending lessons and not adhering to rules provided at the Drop-In Centre, such as sniffing glue, when they know it is prohibited.
Making Plans: For this task students are asked to list the activities they do in a normal day. Students stated that they spend most of the day roaming the streets until lunchtime when they go for a meal at the Centre. On weekends they spend most of the day begging for money for food as the Drop-In Centre is closed. They were then challenged to think of activities that were not on their list that they would like to do. Students were asked if they found their daily activities stressful and they stated that looking for a place to sleep and begging for money for food was very stressful. Pupils were tasked with planning what they feel would be a normal structure for a day and they listed that bathing, going to school, doing homework, having food and a safe place to sleep would be a normal less stressful structure.
Students were asked if they felt they could do anything to lessen the stress of their current situation. They stated that earning money by helping at a car wash or sweeping or any small chores would alleviate some stress as they would have money to buy food. This statement showed that the pupils understood the importance of making plans and that by having a plan, some stress could be avoided.
Self-Managers in Action: Learners were divided into different groups to consider scenarios and what possible actions depicted traits of a good and bad self-manager. One of the scenarios created was: If the pupils had $100, how would they spend it? Examples of possible actions the kids came up with were:
- Starting a business i.e. buying airtime to resell
- Buying alcohol and glue
- Buying soccer boots
- Keep it to use in hard times
Pupils who were part of a different group had to then differentiate from the list given good and bad self-management traits.
Learning a poem: The goal with this lesson is not for students to memorise the poem but rather to practice skills that will help them overcome challenges. Pupils were given a poem to learn and pupils had until the next lesson to memorise it. They were given a few minutes to write a plan based on self- management skills stating what steps they would take to learn the poem and when they will do this. For example, some boys planned to recite the poem to each other line by line to help remember it.
As a whole, students are grasping the concept of self-management. A quote from one of the pupils says, “On self-management, I have learned to keep myself clean, behave respectfully, and be helpful. I want to be a good person and go back to school. Self- management skills are helping me to create a better future.”
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.
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.