JIS News

The Duke of Edinburgh Award Programme, which has been operating in Jamaica since 1961, has been moulding the character of thousands of Jamaicans for over 40 years.
Director of the programme in Jamaica, Vernon Derby, explains to JIS News that the Duke of Edinburgh’s programme enables young people to participate in a number of activities and learn a skill.
“Of course you prefer them to learn something that they are not doing in school like probably karate, (or) plumbing. They go on expeditions (and) this is what they really like. They have to go up to the mountains out there into the wild and they learn about life and about nature,” Mr. Derby says.
“They also learn how to work as a team and this is very important. You know nowadays they put two of us together and it’s a disagreement, it brings an argument and four is a fight. So what we try to do is get the young people to work together,” he adds.
He also informs that for persons to go on expeditions they have to learn a number of things such as map reading, camp craft, and how to treat the environment.
Persons participate in the programme to gain an award with each successive one requiring a greater degree of commitment.
The gold award, the highest honour, is presented to persons 16 years and older, who have diligently completed eight months to two years of activities and exhibit responsible adult behaviour and citizenship.
Youngsters 15 years or older may enter the silver award category and must be engaged in tasks for 12 to 18 months, while persons aged 14 years and older may gain the bronze award, which can be achieved within six months to a year.
To win an award, participants must complete activities in four sections for a specified minimum period of time. These include service, an adventurous journey, skills, and physical recreation. There is an additional requirement of a residential project at the gold level. Participants decide what they would like to do for each section.
In the meantime, Mr. Derby in defending the programme notes that because it’s international “if you are applying for a scholarship it would be recognized that you have been involved in a character development programme.” “When you walk out there with that gold pin or that silver or bronze it is big. A great thing about this programme is that it gives a chance for people especially in the schools, it’s a wonderful opportunity for teachers to work with the young people,” Mr. Derby says.
He adds that, “working with a youngster in a classroom is far different from going out there into the wild and working with that youngster. You get to know them, (and) they share their thoughts with you.”
“I wish I could get all our principals to get the students involved in this programme. Because I guarantee you if they get all the students participating in the programme, giving service, going on the expeditions and being a leader I guarantee you that the kind of challenges we have in the schools we are not going to have it,” Mr. Derby asserts.
He notes that participants in the programme are treated with respect. “One rule is that you never shout at a youngster, you big them up. Even in the award book nothing bad is put in that book about them. So we believe in positive reinforcement,” Mr. Derby says.
“If this programme is adopted all through this country I guarantee you it can make a difference to the lives of the young people. The way we deal with young people it is different, we have fun with them, try to get them together and when young people have fun they cooperate,” he adds.
The Duke of Edinburgh award ceremony will be held on April 2, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston beginning at 2:00 p.m. It is a character-building programme, which allows young people age 14 to 25 years, to participate in activities aimed at fostering independence and the development of self-worth.
It is a worldwide programme, which began in Britain in 1956 as a means of allowing young people to become more balanced.

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