On Friday 12th February at 2.00 pm at SITE, Schools Division organized a certificate presentation ceremony to recognise 30 students who have gone through phase one, two or all three phases of the Alternative Education Programme (AEP) and have made and continue to make exceptional improvement in their studies and behaviour. Present at the ceremony were Minister for Education, Mrs Macsuzy Mondon; Principal Secretaries, Mrs Delcy and Dr Barallon; Commandant of the Seychelles Defense Academy, Lieutenant Colonel Anacoura; Bishop French Chang-Him; Consultant, Mrs Patricia Francourt; Ministry of Education Officials; School Council Chairpersons; Headteachers;; Mentors; Parents and students.
The programme for the ceremony was as follows:- an address by Director General for Schools; a presentation by the Consultant with photo montage showing scenes from the programmes to date, three testimonies - by a head teacher, a parent and a student; presentation of certificates and the vote of thanks.
In her address, the Director General for Schools, Ms Odile Octave gave the raison d'etre of the Programme. She explained briefly that the AEP was put in place as part of the Ministry's MTS 2013 -17 to strengthen the Pastoral Care System and support children with a variety of special needs, so that "no child is left behind". The aim of the programme is to help students with challenging behaviour who have reached the point where they do not function safely or productively within their regular school settings and require specialized interventions to help them to get back on track; so that they become productive and responsible members of society.
The Consultant, Mrs Patricia Francourt, gave an in-depth insight of the Programme which is being offered to secondary students, and shared the highlights of the programme through some photos. She drew members' attention to the aim of each phase and she explained how the three phases were organized outside the regular classroom setting.
Briefly, Phase one, Youth Engagement, is of one week duration and is conducted with one school at a time. It aims to raise the motivation and aspiration of the students and to re-engage parents to work in partnership with the school.
Phase two, which students attend during school hours, is of six weeks duration and has so far been hosted by the Seychelles Defense Academy. It aims to help students to develop their self-confidence, self-discipline, sense of personal responsibility and social skills. Students have the opportunity to access academic skills, develop personal life skills, engage in vocational training workshops, and go on educational visits. The third cohort of students participating in this phase of the programme started on Monday 15th February.
Phase three is a two-week residential Youth Integrated Support Programme, which involves highly structured activities aimed at enhancing the students' ability to operate in routine and disciplined environments. It challenges students to take responsibility for their behaviour and the direction their lives will take. It also places emphasis on the importance and benefits of teamwork and seeking support from appropriate mentors.
Students' behaviour is closely monitored during and after each phase to determine if they will be required to move onto the next phase or to continue their studies in the mainstream setting.
All the three testimonies underscored the benefits of the Programme and expressed their wish that all students with challenging behaviour are given the opportunity to follow such a programme.
Programmes with similar components have previously been implemented or piloted by the Ministry of Education and its partners. However, the current three-phase format of the Alternative Education Programme was initiated in 2014. Since then, some 200 students have gone through the different phases of the programme.
During the ceremony, the Ministry acknowledged the active involvement of school management teams, counsellors, and teachers, the Ministry of Health, the Social Affairs Department, organizations and agencies such as the Seychelles Defense Academy, Seychelles Police Academy, CARE, NDEA, the Wellness Centre, and the prison, guest speakers, facilitators, mentors, parents and of course, the students themselves.
They were quick to realise that addressing behaviour issues in the present era, requires a multi-dimensional approach, appropriate resources, the support of various stakeholders and the concerted efforts of the community and the nation.