NYS Proposes Behaviour Change Programme in High Schools


The National Youth Service (NYS), the agency of government charged with putting programmes in place to address unemployment, underachievement and antisocial behaviours among the youth, is pushing for the implementation of a NYS in Schools Programme in high schools across the island.
Executive Director of the NYS, Rev. Adinhair Jones, tells JIS News that the programme has being proposed against the background of the deterioration in social behaviour and attitude of students.
“Since 1994, a number of studies have been done pointing to the problem of violence in schools and also pointing to the shift in attitudes in the school population, shifts that are particularly negative and if not curbed over time, will lead to serious fall outs within the society at large,” he says.
The proposal, he says, is to target students in grade 10 and 11 through mandatory participation in clubs and societies; obligatory community service; putting a process in place whereby students could participate in their own career orientation in a rigorous way while remaining in school; and attaching students to a kind of mentoring programme.
“We believe if we have these four elements working together within a school, we can begin to see some important impact in relation to time management; respect for authority in relation to deportment and in relation to how students speak with one another and to one another, and how they speak to persons in authority like teachers,” he notes.
“The school environment will be significantly overhauled if we are able to address those four critical areas in a significant way,” Rev. Jones points out.
The programme aims to cause transformation within the student body in terms of raising the level of responsibility in relation to lifestyle choices; to have student exhibit certain behaviours that would be considered the norm; and to have the entire school culture go through a process of renewal.
“So the aim is to overhaul the culture of the school and to have this process led by the students themselves as they participate in these various personal development programmes that we will be rolling out,” Rev. Jones tells JIS News.
He notes that the programme “has to be done in a strategic way and what we agreed to do is, to have the sensitization of guidance counsellors and other persons, who may be designated to facilitate the running of the programme, to have alliance with the parent teacher’s associations and to conduct meetings with them.”
In addition, he says, the NYS is seeking to mobilise school officials to streamline the clubs and societies and to get them within the timetable of the schools. “We need to ensure that they fit within the overall programme of the school and .provide the support within the schools,” he points out.
Explaining the activities under the proposed NYS in Schools Programme, Rev. Jones outlines that in terms of community service, “we need to get our students to have a sense of responsibility to the development and maintenance of their communities.”
“This is going to be a work programme designated for individual students or groups of students, but that will not be taken away from their commitment to school work or to other activities that they will have, and in a structured way, they will participate at a community level, in giving back service,” he points out.
As it relates to participation in clubs and societies, Rev. Jones reasons that, if every student participates in a club, then the level of harmonious relationship within the school will be enhanced through the interaction that will take place in the clubs. “They are going to be very highly activity-based and values-based and so overtime, the participants will, through the structure of the clubs, take on more pro-social orientation in life overall,” he says.
The Executive Director strongly believes that if the NYS in Schools programme is implemented, students will become so exposed, that the desired behaviour modification and attitudinal changes will take place. As to why the focus on schools as the agent of change and not the family, Rev. Jones explains that, “the school is a micro society and we believe we need to assist students in finding more protective factors within their school environment since school is where they will spend most of their waking hours during the day”.
He notes further that having “made our assessment of the family situation in Jamaica and the level of dysfunctional families and how that is affecting the orientation and development of students .we are very deliberate about locating the school as the element within the society right now, where the protective factors are going to be engaged so that our students can be aligned more socially and go through life and maintain the best potential given all the circumstances.”
Rev. Jones says that while the programme is targeted at secondary schools, “there have been suggestions that.we should also target the primary schools as well, since the problem tends to begin there.”
The proposal for the NYS in Schools Programme is now before the Ministry of Education and Youth and according to Rev. Jones, Minister Maxine Henry Wilson has given “her blessing to it and it has been through the senior management discussion at the Ministry as well and got the blessing at that level. So I am just hoping that the functionaries to whom it has been sent will now move to have it implemented soon.”
Rev. Jones believes that the island’s schools will support the programme. “The schools, I believe, have a good sense of what the NYS does and the kind of transformational work that we are able to do with students. Given the level of problems within the schools, I would not see a principal objecting to a programme like this once the logistics are worked out and the support is put in place for it,” he argues.
He opines further that, “in terms of social and economic returns, I think this programme would be really, really valuable and can be justified, just in terms of keeping students in school, reducing the levels of violence and just orienting students to be more in touch with their surroundings and taking responsibility for their surroundings.”
“So, I would want everybody within the public to reflect on this particular proposal and to see with us how we can implement it to bring about the necessary transformation that is so desperately needed now in our education system in relation to student relations and attitude,” he urges.

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