Up Close … with Janice Houareau, owner of ‘Miss Janice’s Afterschool and Holiday Programmes’ | 14 January 2020
‘Everything is always a lesson, it is never ‘why me?’’
By Elsie Pointe
Not even a year in, Janice Houreau has already established a small empire of small children at the Espace Building. Her recently opened business, ‘Miss Janice’s Afterschool and Holiday Programmes’, has garnered a following of loyal and dedicated parents who entrust Miss Janice with their children either during after-school hours or during the holidays.
Although her afterschool and holiday care programme was featured in the Seychelles NATION a while back, we went back to Miss Janice to discover a little bit more about her.
What we found was a fierce and independent woman who could very much be an exemplary model for young girls and entrepreneurs.
Education and career
“I started my schooling at Beau Vallon school, from crèche up to secondary level after which I undertook the National Youth Service (NYS) at Cap Ternay for a year. Following NYS, I went to the Polytechnic (1997-1998) and the National Institute for Education (NIE) where I followed a three-year course as a generalist teacher in primary education, from 1998 to 2000,” Janice recounts.
Once she graduated, Janice started work right off the bat in 2001 at La Rosière primary school but only stayed there for one and a half years, teaching children at Primary 1 (P1) level.
In 2002, she migrated to International School where she has worked up until 2017.
“Most of my teaching career was spent at International School and within the International School I received various training opportunities. I was able to undertake courses in childcare, child protection, First Aid, learning through play, literacy and numeracy and teaching creatively.”
With a tireless thirst to improve her teaching abilities, Janice is presently following an online course on how to teach English as a foreign language.
“For most Seychellois children, English is a second language; it is not their mother tongue,” she says while explaining the raison d’être.
“So, this course will help me to deliver more in terms of how I teach them another language because it is totally different from teaching English as a first language.”
Once she left International School in 2017, Janice chose to work as a nanny/governess for two children. She was responsible for their after-school care which included picking them up from school, taking them to their activities and to outings as well as helping them with their homework.
Meanwhile, over the course of six years, Miss Janice also facilitated holiday clubs at Eden Island, Fregate Island as well as holiday programmes on Mahé.
These last few jobs fuelled the flames for Janice to – three years later in 2019 – open her own business: ‘Miss Janice’s Afterschool and Holiday Care Programme’.
Her early years
Raised at Pascal Village, Beau Vallon, Janice remembers her childhood with fondness and enthusiasm.
“I had a very good childhood. Growing up, my father was the disciplinarian while my mother was the one who instilled moral values and how to treat people the way you want to be treated,” she notes.
“There are three of us girls: Joanna, Emma (see Up Close from January 22, 2019) and I,” Janice adds.
Hard-work, responsibility and respect were principles that were not amiss in the Houareau household.
“They raised us up to be independent and I always like to say that they raised us for the world, not for them. No matter which situation we were in, my parents made sure that we got the best out of education.”
“My father came from a family of 13 children which was very difficult because his mother had to do it all alone. Because of their struggle, my father made sure to educate us the best he could and he did that by allowing us to travel. We travelled to see and experience things that were outside of where we lived. It was to show us how lucky we were to have what we had and to experience different cultures.”
Motherhood, a responsibility
Like most mothers who had a child at a young age, Janice had to grow up faster than some others.
She gave birth to her daughter at 18 years old when she was still in her first year at NIE but quickly realised that she needed to take responsibility of her life and daughter.
“My parents are divorced; my dad left when I was 13 so it was very difficult for us. My mother became a single mum and she had three teenage daughters to raise, and it wasn’t always easy,” Janice recounts.
“As a teenager, you sometimes do things that you were not taught. And, in Seychelles, everything is taboo; nobody really wants to talk about sexual education. Anyways, we got curious and I got pregnant.”
“I was very lucky to have been able to continue my studies at NIE but I had to pass my year. Gaelle was born in November and the year was ending in December, it was imperative that I pass my exams to continue to the next year.”
Janice states that she got through with the support of a very good group of friends who studied with her and brought her their lecture notes while she was in hospital.
“They helped out a lot and we are still friends up until now.”
“I also wouldn’t have been able to make it without my family; we are very family-oriented and look out for each other. It was just my mum and my sisters, because we did not have any contact with my dad after that. He just completely disappeared.”
“As for my partner, it wasn’t the best of relationships. It was always up and down, and for my daughter’s sake I broke it off because it was an abusive relationship and it wasn’t helping.”
“So I stayed by myself all of these years, took care of my daughter because, again, the value of responsibility comes up. She was my responsibility and I studied hard while she slept at night. Woke up the next morning, took her to child-minding, went to school, graduated, started work and took care of her with Joanna, Emma and my mum helping, every step of the way,” she recollects.
Janice is modest enough to acknowledge that she is not self-made and hence appreciates each and every person who has had and still has a role in her achievements.
“I have been blessed to have so many people who have helped along the way. I have had a lot of people picking me up and helping me with my child.
“Being a single mother at 18 years old is not an easy task but I got there. Still getting there,” she chuckled.
When asked why she did not give up during this experience, Janice replied: “Everything was always a lesson, it was never ‘why me?’, it was never easy and I always tear up when I talk about it but when I look at myself now, I can say that I’ve come a long way.
Gaelle is now a 21-year-old university student who is currently studying abroad, and her mother couldn’t be any prouder.
“This was my goal from the very beginning: give my child the best education possible and make sure she goes to university because I never got the chance to do it. Back then, when you graduated you couldn’t further your studies anywhere else in education, especially in early childhood and primary education.”
Janice is presently in a relationship of five years with “a very supportive partner”.
Passion for early childhood education
“I am someone who loves to talk and it was important for me to find a job that required for me to speak. It was a passion of mine to pass on what my mother and father had taught me, and I’ve always wanted to make a difference because whatever you teach a child at a young age stays with them as they grow.”
“It was always a thing of ‘how can I help?’ ‘How can I make a difference? Children are our future, and if I can make a difference in the lives of one or two of them then I have done my part in this world. I mean, I have never imagined myself doing anything other than this,” she further highlights
“If you do not send primary teachers for further training that they need, then it is very difficult for the teachers to deliver to their fullest potential. But I never held it against them [the education ministry], because what I got from NIE got me into International School. Back then, their standards were quite high; they did not take me in because of experience since I had just graduated, but they took me in because of the qualifications that I had.”
“I also had a very good reference from my head teacher at La Rosière and I went there and never looked back.”
According to Janice, she owes all of her teaching experience to International School because the private school opened doors for her to walk through and achieve her goals.
“I had so many opportunities. In 2014, I was placed in a school in Dubai and got to learn so much there and I also attended a workshop for the new British curriculum, and it was an eye-opener for me.”
“This is what many teachers in Seychelles need; they need the exposure and see what is happening outside. You never stop learning,” she says.
One of her wishes for the early childhood sector is that more is done to boost early childhood and primary education in Seychelles.
“When I was working as nanny/governess, I wasn’t working in the morning so I did some consultant works at a day-care and a pre-school, just so as to prepare the children from school.”
“There are some really good teachers and passionate people out there. A lot of them are not teachers; they just do this because they either don’t have another choice or they love children. However they cannot do their work without resources.”
“As children grow they need to learn how to manipulate things, touch things, feel things. You cannot teach them something in isolation. If a child has never seen snow, how would you teach them about snow effectively? It is an alien concept for them. So what you do is, to make them hold an ice cube and they will understand that snow is cold and it melts. All of these things are easily available.”
Aside from recycling, she also makes use of ordinary materials such as flour, lentils, rice and water to teach young children.
According to Janice, teaching young children should be messy and are all about having simple ideas which can be easily understood.
Janice’s After School and Holiday Programmes
“I started this business because, as a parent, I know how hard it is to balance your child’s activities and school with your job. As a parent, you want your child to learn new skills and learn well at school but your child cannot do that if they are not exposed to various activities.”
If you want to sign your child up for tennis, swimming, dance classes but do not have the time to bring them to these activities, this is where Miss Janice comes in.
“So basically, I pick them up from school and if they have after-school activities, I take them to their activities; it could be swimming, football or anything. I also pick them up from their activities. At Espace, we have teachers who help out with the kids with their homework and once completed we do creative arts, singing, yoga,” she explains.
“On days where they do not have a lot of homework, we go out to the playground, to the beach, to the museum, the library downstairs. When they come here it’s like they are at home. You come, you do your homework, relax and play, and then have a snack. By the time the parents come to pick them up, everything is done,” she explains.
“For some parents, by the time they reach home after 5pm, it’s late, they are tired but they have to cook dinner; so with my after-care programme parents get to cook and do their chores without the pressure of doing homework and so on.”
Her after-school programme presently includes children from Bel Eau school, Montessori, Trotters, Independent and International School.
She also hosts holiday programmes for kids during the Easter, August and Christmas holidays.
During school terms, Miss Janice welcomes toddlers, from one and a half years old to three years old, in her Stay and Play sessions which is meant to prepare the toddlers for pre-school. This is held from 8am to noon.
The idea behind her business was simple: “There is a need in Seychelles for places where children are stimulated, where they are encouraged and guided to develop the way they should. Bring them outside, anywhere is a place of learning. The communities are here, and everything is here but we just do not take advantage.”
“It wasn’t easy to accomplish it and it is still not easy. But when parents support me and are satisfied with the services I provide, it keeps me going. They are ready to help and are extremely supportive.”
Words of wisdom
“Hard work is important. You have to wake up every morning to do what you love. Just keep pushing, and above all, find yourself a good support system.”
“Once you find that support system, hang on to it. Also, learn from your mistakes and never think that people are out there to get you. I mean, yes there are these sort of persons out there but I never see the negative in people.”
“Of course, I’m human; I get disappointed and sad but I never stay in that place. I always tell my daughter that it’s okay to fall, but that you should never stay down. It’s not easy out there and I’ve never sugar-coated anything for Gaëlle, I have never made her believe everything is okay when everything is not always okay. But I believe in hard work and being responsible; if you need to turn up, turn up.”