Text by Marieke Apperloo-van Zoest
Last December, the team of Sport – The Bridge (STB) started to develop a new program; a preventive life skill training for 6 grade students. This idea emerged out of two reasons; firstly STB had to change its strategy since the street children STB used to provide daycare to, had left Addis Ababa unfortunately. Secondly, STB has always been involved in the rehabilitation of street children but not yet in addressing and preventing the root causes which make children go to the streets. This program would finally enable STB to do so. Since 2016, STB started with the implementation of a small prevention program. In June 2017 one of the sport teachers organized a small pilot in life skill training on a neighboring primary school. The pilot contained 3 life skill lessons on the sport field.
This was a great success and therefore the team of STB started to develop full life skill training, consisting of 10 topics. The first step in developing the new program was to get government approval. Secondly, it was important to decide which topics would be relevant for 6th grade students. Examples of these topics were found in an earlier life skill training manual, provided by the government. And then the development of the training could start. The team wanted to offer a comprehensive training with the famous signature of STB; sport activities had to be included! The team came up with the plan to organize 2 sport field sessions and one workshop in the classroom per week, addressing one life skill in 3 separate sessions. To provide the sport teachers and social workers with basic knowledge about each life skill that would be included in the training, the team attended a set of 2 workshops on understanding the 10 life skills. In these workshops, the importance of each life skill was emphasized, as well as ways on how to address these topics with 6th grade students.
After these workshops, both the team of social workers and the team of sport teachers started to develop their sessions. A few weeks later, STB was ready to get started with the training. STB already had good contacts with the school where they wanted to conduct the pilot of this new training, Dilbetigil Primary School in Shiro Meda. STB organized an orientation meeting for all 6th grade students. In this meeting STB explained what the training exactly is about, what the children could expect and what they would learn. Approximately 140 children attended the meeting. After the meeting, students had a voluntary choice to subscribe for the first round training. Apparently there was a great interest; more than 100 students showed their interest, while there was space for just 50 students in this first round.
At the first day of the training, the students came to the first sport field session in great number and with great curiosity and enthusiasm. This way of learning is relatively new and therefore very exciting! The sport teachers of STB were observed and accompanied by the sport teachers from the school for all sessions. In this way, sport teachers at Dilbetigil got the opportunity to share experience with teachers from STB. In the Saturday classrooms sessions, the social workers organized workshops for the students. For both sport field and classroom session’s students were divided in 2 groups of approximately 25 students.
At the end of the 10-week pilot, both the students, school leaders and the STB team were enthusiastic about this first round. Everyone was motivated to continue with the next group of students. In order to learn from what has been done and to improve the sessions after this pilot period, evaluation workshop was organized. In these workshops the STB team started to evaluate the training overall, for example on points like parent involvement, team collaboration, choice and order of topics. One of the outcomes of these discussions was to improve the involvement of the parents, both by sensitizing them at the beginning of the training as well as inviting them for a final graduation and evaluation meeting. The skills learned in the training will be used at home, so it is essential that the home environment responds supportive to the new behavior of the students at home. Secondly, an important outcome was to make a plan for follow up for some of the students and their families. Some children and/or families might need more support than only their child being trained in life skills. The social workers will divide these families and get in touch with them to see how STB can support them.
Besides the overall evaluation the team did a detailed evaluation of each topic. Where all the activities suitable? Should some be removed or replaced? Was the message of the topic clear for the students, can they use it in their daily lives or should we change the way the topic is offered and explained? These were very fruitful and interesting discussions leading to useful improvements.
Right after the evaluation meetings, the next round of 10 topics has started. This round will end just before the end of the school year. For next school year, STB has the plan to conduct 3 rounds of 10 weeks, to make sure that all new 6th grade students that would like to join the training can do so. Another plan for the coming school year is to develop after school life skills experience sharing club for students who have finalized the training. STB looks forward to this New Year and hopes to inspire many students to use the life skills and become stronger young adults.