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 solvent abuse is an everyday reality for children living on the streets in Gweru, a recent lesson was introduced specifically to tackle this issue. Students were taught that using inhalants - glues, gases and aerosols - carries the risk of long-term damage to the heart, liver, kidneys and muscles, and can result in sudden death. Although providing an immediate ‘high’, it causes users to suffer from mood swings, aggressive behaviour, hallucinations, vomiting and blackouts. With a similar effect to being drunk, solvent abuse slows physical responses and has the aftereffects of headaches, lethargy and depression.
When asked to consider why someone might take drugs, the students believed that peer pressure was a major factor, as was the desire to relieve stress and to forget bad experiences from the past. It was also acknowledged that often the reason was simply to have ‘fun’.
Through talking about the dangers of solvent abuse, the students were able to understand the need to make the right choices for their own wellbeing, and to seek alternative ways to relieve stress by talking about their problems rather than masking them with drug use.
One student named Peace had fallen and hurt his leg. When he arrived at the Drop-in Centre, it was obvious that he needed medical attention. Although Peace had attended a clinic after his fall, he had not continued with his treatment and the wound had got worse. Drop-in staff and volunteers took him back to the clinic, where he was shown how to keep the wound clean and to apply a fresh dressing every day. With staff and volunteers checking the wound each time they visit the Drop-in Centre, Peace’s leg is now healing well.
As some of the students are parents of babies and young children, the Drop-in Centre provides a safe environment for them to take part in supervised activities. During a recent session, toddlers in the group practiced ball skills - rolling, throwing, catching, kicking and dribbling - all designed to improve motor skills, hand-eye coordination and timing.
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.