A group of learners suspended for improper behaviour recently underwent a rigorous but constructive programme to help change their ways.
The 19 Grade 11 learners from a local school were suspended for alleged truancy and alcohol consumption, apparently as a protest against one of their teachers.
While doing crime prevention patrols, Kensington police started noticing that learners were getting involved in crime, either as victims or perpetrators, and decided to investigate.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Angeline Grill decided to approach the school’s principal and the idea of a suspended learners’ programme came about, she says.
Grill then went on to solicit the support of other organisations. Simcha Global Foundation and the Women’s Communicare Network, as well as local community leaders, offered their services.
After consulting with managers of the local Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (Shawco), Grill was able to secure a venue in the multipurpose facility and the programme got underway from Tuesday 17 to Tuesday 24 July.
“We focused on the consequences of the learners’ actions and on alcohol abuse. We got someone to speak to them about alcohol abuse consequences,” says Grill.
The programme also saw the learners undergoing crochet therapy with Simcha Global Foundation, a local non-profit company whose objective is “to establish and manage sustainable customised programmes to raise awareness about the importance of a culture of nation building, challenging responsibility and accountability to children, youth and women at risk”. “Through crochet therapy the learners explore many benefits and engage in conversations in safe spaces, interaction and critical thinking,” says the foundation’s founding member, Sherry Becorney.
The learners were also taken through intense physical training in the form of a boot camp. “We used every aspect of the programme to bring a message across to them. We told them, ‘with physical training, your body changes and if you sit with your books, your mind will change’,” says Grill.
She says although none of the learners were rebellious towards the programme, some “moaned” about the boot camp. According to Grill, this was a good sign, as it would remind the learners of the consequences of bad behaviour. “We want to deter them from getting suspended in the first place and make them aware that there are proper ways of dealing with problems at school.”
The programme ran from 07:30 to 16:00 and Grill says this was to instil a sense of responsibility in the learners and to further stress the presence of consequences.
Machelle Solomons of the Women’s Communicare Network says: “I’m super proud and grateful to those learners that agreed and came to the programme on time every day. They wanted to be there, they know that their actions had consequences and took responsibility for their actions. These kids made great things happen and they had such good examples of our community to do talks and encouragement. I believe that this is a start for greater things for our kids.”
She hopes the programme can grow to become a regular event. At the close of the programme, the learners got to interact with stakeholders and spoke to an ex-offender who spoke about the consequences of crime.