DEPUTY Chief Education Officer, Administration, Mr. Roopnarine Tewari, has called on mentors of the recently inaugurated National Voluntary Mentoring Programme to adopt a result oriented approach in the execution of their duties.
He issued the challenge on Monday at the start of the Voluntary Mentoring Programme Mentors Training Session in the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD), Battery Road, Kingston, Georgetown.
Tewari lauded the project, pointing out that it will strengthen the Education Ministry’s arsenal for reversing the negative trend of behaviour in some secondary schools by reaching out to the students in a supportive way.
He said the conduct is of much concern to the Ministry and urged the mentors to develop a scheme to monitor and measure the progress made, in terms of creating positive behavioural change in their charges.
Deputy Chief Education Officer, Development, Ms. Donna Chapman, emphasised that all incidents of violence in schools are taken seriously and viewed the process as another meaningful step by the Ministry to maintain an orderly and disciplined school environment.
She expressed optimism that the initiative would fulfill the Ministry’s expectations, particularly in inculcating valuable skills in young people to build constructive relationships.
Chapman told the gathering of volunteer mentors that their new task will entail hard work as children of today are more exposed to the negative influences in the media.
Apart from that challenge, she pointed out that, at times, the “bad behaviour” displayed by students is justified by their parents who, unquestionably, lack sound parental, social and communication skills.
But Chapman said the achievement of forging positive attitudes, values and behaviour in those under their control will be most rewarding.
National Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) Coordinator, Ms. Carol Benn said schools with high incidence of violence have been selected to benefit from the one year undertaking, noting that Cummings Lodge, Lodge, Tutorial, South Ruimveldt and Wisburg Secondary schools fall into that category.
However, she mentioned that the initiative will be extended to other schools throughout the country where the situation necessitates such intervention.
Benn explained that mentoring sessions will not exceed one hour and would be conducted once weekly at the schools the children attend.
She said out of school relationships with a mentor and the mentee is encouraged, provided it is within the objectives of the programme and permission is obtained from the child’s parent.
Benn said strong emphasis is being placed on attracting male mentors to serve as guides and role models to young boys, create positive behavioural changes and prevent their underachievement.
She said all the mentors will be monitored, by the headteacher and a liaison officer of the respective school the mentee attends, to ensure they do what is expected of them and external evaluations will be done by the Schools’ Welfare Department.
Benn disclosed that the mentors were screened to make sure they are of reputable character, before being selected to assume their new role.
The Ministry of Education, in keeping with its thrust to build and promote the healthy self-esteem and image of secondary school students, restarted the National Voluntary Mentoring Programme in March.
Advanced by Education Minister Shaik Baksh, its aim is to inculcate acceptable behaviours in students, promote tolerance and address some of the challenges facing the sector, including violence and students’ low academic performance.
The intervention complements other initiatives currently being undertaken by the Education Ministry to achieve the quality imperatives outlined in the 2008-2013 Education Strategic Plan and strengthens the relationship between the school, home and community.
Under it, a student mentee is paired with a former peer or other person considered a suitable mentor.
The mentor, mentee and his/her parent/guardian will meet to introduce themselves. After the introduction, the mentor may expose the mentee to activities such as concerts, exhibitions or family outings and interact on a range of issues, particularly those of the mentee’s interest.
Mentors are encouraged to form themselves into groups and parents to volunteer their services to establish school clubs to keep students more meaningfully occupied.
Through those actions, it is anticipated that students’ academic performance and attendance will improve, violence in schools will be significantly reduced, if not eliminated and students will enjoy a better relationship with their peers and teachers.