The traditional method of fish-smoking in Unnichchai, a small fishing community in the Batticaloa district sees women spending many hours tending to fish laid out on mesh over smoking coals. Health hazards from smoke inhalation are high, while the output from such intensive labour is often low. That is now changing with the introduction of […]
Youth Clubs Prioritize Social Action and Learning for Children
Mannar, Sri Lanka, 24 July 2017 – Two Youth Clubs in the Mannar District, two different initiatives, one common purpose: to broaden children’s knowledge and horizons. The Thalvupadu Don Bosco Youth Club decided to set up a library, while the Veppankulam Youth Club launched a programme to help Grade 5 students in their locality pass their school examinations. The formation of the youth clubs and their activities were part of a European Union Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP) initiative to empower youth – implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with the British Council and the National Youth Services Council (NYSC).
In the predominantly Catholic fisheries village of Thalvupadu in the Mannar District, a group of young people sit around a table evaluating the work they have done and planning the work they want to do. They are occupying a room that has been donated to them by the Thalvapadu Church to create a library for the children in the neighbourhood. It’s a venture that the church has facilitated but does not interfere in.
“Don Bosco is the patron saint of youth, concerned about young people’s education, so we decided to name the youth club, the Don Bosco Youth Club,” states Subramanium Neuman. “The first thing we did after forming the group was participating in a workshop where we learnt the importance of good planning – more precisely, how to plan for initiatives that would benefit society. When we started prioritizing, the library was on top of the list.”
EU-SDDP provided financial support for renovating the library room and to cover the acquisition of some of the books. The youth group has ambitious plans for further development and they are confident they will achieve their targets. ”We have the support of the community to build the library,” says John Paul Dias, President of the club. “People are contributing in whatever way they can. One of our friends got into the Medical Faculty, which is rare for the village. He has promised to donate all his textbooks to the library. We chose the church compound as the location because we know that this way the library will be sustained even if the youth club members move in different directions.”
Project planning and management training was not just for youth club members, but also for NYSC officials. “We had a wonderful facilitator for the training. We can use what we learnt in our work with young people,” says Simon Silva, Youth Services Officer, Mannar. “Club members gained the skills needed to create social action programmes. It was a comprehensive training programme that also included the creative presentation of ideas.” The training directly benefited 120 youth officers and 240 young people aged 18-25 years from four districts. EU-SDDP has helped form or strengthen over 70 youth clubs in seven districts, empowering 2,500 adolescents and youth to participate in sports, civic and community action projects while 230 youth leaders and youth service officers have been trained in life skills and civic engagement.
“Even if a student spends just half an hour a day with a book, that would be good enough,” says Jeeva Crusz, a youth club member, “Then the children will grow to love reading. We won’t have to force them. Children will depend less on tuition classes if they have access to good books.” Nine-year-old Angeline Crusz is a regular visitor to the library: “I love to learn. I have more books to read now. I read the most books in the library.”
Meanwhile, two members of the the Mohammediya Youth Club, of Veppankulam village of, are visiting the National Youth Services Council office in Mannar to update officials on the work they have been doing in partnership with schools to increase the involvement of parents in their children’s education. The NYSC would continue to work with the youth groups on future social action initiatives.
The Mohammediya Youth Club researched the reasons for children’s lack of success in school
The Mohammediya Youth Club’s initial planning focused on the poor levels of education in their village and district. Club members carried out a data collection in five schools and consulted 15 school principals in Musali. This resulted in a seminar based on the research findings attended by 150 students, teachers and schools, with youth club members as key resource people.
“Next, seminars for parents, facilitated by teachers, were held by some of the school principals,” says Irfan Mubassir, a youth club member. “The main objective was to motivate parents who were less interested, less engaged in their children’s education.” Ethna Samad, another club member, acknowledges the role of the NYSC and the British Council in the effectiveness of their work: “They encouraged us all the way. We learnt how to tackle social issues, how to try and address them systematically. We did our research to educate ourselves. We feel confident, and more than that, we know we are competent.”
The European Union Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP) is a Euro 60 million partnership between the European Union, the Sri Lankan government, UNICEF and other UN agencies to create greater access to social infrastructure and services for vulnerable communities in the districts of Ampara, Batticaloa, Mannar, Vavuniya and border villages in the districts of Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Monaragala.