A programme initiated as a pre-pilot some six months ago, through the Ministry of Education, is winning over its target audience.
A Ganar, which is the Spanish for ???to win??? or ???to earn???, uses the basic principles of football and other team sports to help youth develop life skills and prepare them for success in the workplace, based on the demands of the labour market.
From April to July of this year, two secondary schools and two tertiary level institutions had the privilege of undergoing the training and support offered under the A Ganar curriculum. They were the St. Leonard???s Boys??? Secondary School, Parkinson Memorial Secondary School, the Barbados Vocational Training Board (BVTB), and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP).
Country Coordinator with the A Ganar Alliance, Ytannia Wiggins, in reviewing the programme said: ???What we realised from the BVTB and the SJPP was that when children graduated they had the certificate, but when they went on their job attachment, they didn???t fit into the role; they didn???t understand the dynamics of coming [to work] on time, having respect for authority and discipline to complete tasks, although they were certified in the area.???
Pointing out that A Ganar uses a four-phase approach, Ms. Wiggins stressed that Phase One, which normally takes a total of 100 hours of each student???s time, was most critical as it taught six core skills that could be learnt on the sports field and transferred to the workplace and other aspects of life.
???These core values are self-improvement, communication, discipline, respect, teamwork, and a focus on results; and the time is split between the field and the classroom to cover a wide variety of activities, games and lessons. So the first 100 hours in Phase One of A Ganar teaches you those employability skills. When you have completed that, you then go into Phase Two ??? Market Driven Technical or Entrepreneurial Training,??? she explained.
Students then move to Phase Three, through an internship, mentorship or apprenticeship programme. They are expected to take the core values learnt in Phase One and implement them along with their technical and vocational training in the workplace.
While it would only be 80 hours of internship at any business place in Phase Three, Ms. Wiggins believes it is an investment in the students. ???It does not guarantee you a job, but it is giving you the skills to be a better employee,??? she stated.
A Ganar uses three benchmarks. ???Students would go back to school to continue their education; in this case, within the secondary school you would be granted another year to do more CXCs, or you can go on to owning your own business – entrepreneurship, or gaining employment. That???s how we measure success in the programme,??? Ms. Wiggins explained.
She considers A Ganar to be ???unique???, particularly as it relates to Phase Four – a Follow up Phase that monitors the participants for an entire year after completion of Phase Three. It involves an alumni person and the student???s facilitator checking in with them every three months to see where they are at.
???They look to see whether you have gotten a job; gone back to school or started your own business. It is also to help lend support and networking to determine how we can help along the way. That is actually the end of the A Ganar programme with that particular person, and he/she can act as a peer,??? she said.
In the pre-pilot phase, 80 students graduated between April and June. Noting, however, that they were only tested on Phase One, which ran for 60 hours instead of the full 100 hours, the Country Coordinator said: ???The success rate was better than we anticipated. We got good reviews on the students. One of the successes would have been Parkinson Memorial School, where out of their group of 15 students, 10 of them were allowed back into school, to continue [on], at least to CXC level. Other than that they would have been superannuated. The Principal allowed them back in.???
Also praising the initiative is Physical Education Teacher at Queen???s College and a facilitator with A Ganar, Tanya Oxley. ???Our pre-pilot programme with the boys of St. Leonard???s [Secondary] School was very successful,??? she said, noting that of the 13 boys, only one had dropped out. Three students had returned to school; one applied to the SJPP and was accepted; two of them are currently working, and one boy, who wants to enroll in the Coast Guard programme, has to wait until he is at the correct age to be recruited.
Giving her male counterparts in the programme some credit for their involvement, Ms. Oxley said: ???A lot of times, we find boys don???t have that father figure at home; there are mostly females in the household; so it was very important to have a male there in the programme for the guys to look up to and someone to whom they could relate.?????
Not one to accept the notion that these students were mere ???products of their environment???, Ms. Oxley stated: ???With a lot of them ??? you can find something good. We had one boy who actually sang in Richard Stoute [Teen Talent Show] and he won when he was in his junior year. He went on to be a semifinalist in the Junior Calypso Monarch. We have two guys who play community football and one of them is currently playing in the David Thompson Constituency Council Football Competition and one of the other boys, he was a part of the Work Study programme at the St. Leonard???s Boys Secondary School, and he was actually able to get a vacation job.???
A Ganar???s use of a proven sport-based methodology to reach, motivate and facilitate skill acquisition was evident when we spoke to Hakeem Wilkinson of St. Leonard???s Boys??? Secondary. His mom, Harriette Pilgrim, related how she had seen changes in his behaviour with respect to his punctuality; school work and assisting around the home. ???He likes the programme. I believe it is because of A Ganar that people are seeing changes in him… He said he would sign up for Phase Two. I would say that he is happy with A Ganar,??? she said.
Hakeem admitted that he enjoyed Phase One of the programme, noting that he had improved on his manners, behaviour and communication skills. He recounted: ???It was a great programme. I was not confident enough at the beginning, but when the facilitators and others started to talk about themselves and how their lives were, it made us all feel better. I also liked that it taught me different activities, while still allowing me to keep up with my studies, especially Mathematics.???
In addition to being punctual, Hakeem says his dress code is now better and he is no longer hot-tempered, but has ???cooled down???. ???I am going to join the Army, but my real purpose is to be a fireman,??? said the 16-year old, who has been given a second chance in Upper Fifth and is now a Prefect at his school.
The pre-pilot phase of A Ganar was aided by the Multilateral Investment Fund, a division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It has provided the Ministry of Education and participating schools with an opportunity to see the programme in full operation, as well as allowed for adjustments to be made.
Now in its pilot phase, A Ganar is being funded under the Government of Barbados/IDB Skills for the Future Programme. Three more schools have been brought on board – Fredrick Smith Secondary School, Daryll Jordan School and St. George Secondary.