Now that the COVID-19 pandemic put a temporary end to extramural activities, the Western Cape Scouting-in-Schools (SiS) interns are assisting school staff with the implementation of health and safety precautions. The SiS initiative is a project in partnership with the Western Cape Government’s After School Game Changer programme (ASGC). It aims to address youth unemployment and the lack of quality extracurricular activities.
“Since November 2016 we have been running extracurricular Cub and Scout programmes in no and low-fee paying schools throughout the Western Cape”, explains project coordinator Ahmad Solomon. “Local unemployed youth, or our interns as we call them, receive training and mentorship and deliver our programmes for a year in designated schools. All the interns undergo an extensive interview process and need to pass a police clearance. Once admitted, they are trained to become adult leaders through a continuous weekly process of learning and mentoring. They also volunteer at an established community Scout Group to “learn by doing”.
When we were informed of the pending lockdown we started looking at ways in which the interns’ services could be adjusted and how we could maintain the training and mentoring”, he continues. “We used mobile technology to communicate and it proved to be the most effective and efficient tool. One of themes we worked on during lockdown was the impact of miscommunication. Our interns live in the townships and disadvantaged communities we serve and fake news and misconceptions on what Covid-19 was and how you could protect yourself were rife! Through WhatsApp Group chats we were able to teach our interns how to analyse the information received, verify the information and perpetuate correct and factual information instead of running with fake news based on an emotional response to it. The interns then decided to take it upon themselves to develop posters and mini campaigns to inform their neighbours and community members on the factual ins and outs of the pandemic. For example intern Lithalethu made posters she hang up at her local communal tap in Khayalitsha. Soon the interns became a trusted source of factual information.
We also assisted with the distribution of the ‘Florence & Watson’ treasure boxes. These printed resource activity packs were developed to ensure that learning didn’t stop during lockdown for grade 1 – 5 learners without data or network access. Our interns distributed and supported families in using the resources” states Ahmad proudly
“After it was announced that the schools would re-open, some of the interns suggested we ask whether they could assist with safety protocols in the schools they serve. They had grown in confidence and realised their utility in supporting the schools during these scary and uncertain times. At present SiS interns are presenting the facts to learners as well as assisting health and safety officers with screening and ensuring social distancing regulations are adhered to.
By encouraging the interns to identify a problem that they could address with the means they had at their disposal, they were empowered and found a purpose.
In the beginning of lockdown it was clear that many people felt lost and useless as they were unable to make a difference. By encouraging the interns to identify a problem that they could address with the means they had at their disposal -whilst adhering to national lockdown regulations – they were empowered and found a purpose. They were able to make a positive impact in their community, be good and productive citizens, whilst staying safe. By being part of the Scouting-in-Schools project these young people acquire project management, communication and practical life skills. Scouting gives them self-confidence, structure and purpose, which prepares them for the labour market” he concludes.
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