Think Together: an initiative to promote student motivation and engagement |30 November 2019
With the worrying lack of aspirations and civic responsibility among our youth, Think Together aims to partner with schools and districts to develop a strategic plan to solve this issue.
After so long, we witnessed such an initiative! Led by the young Nandita Nair who started a community building process in bringing students from three schools – Beau Vallon, Mont Fleuri and Plaisance secondary – together to make them become leaders and game changers.
The programme took place from November 18-25, 2019 and concluded with a gathering of various stakeholders at the KB Emporium, Providence. Designated Minister Macsuzy Mondon, Minister for Education and Human Resource Development Jeanne Simeon, principal secretaries from various ministries and departments, chief executives as well as head teachers and other social workers were present for the event.
Catherine Lindroth, co-founder of the Social Contract Association from the US, and Whitney Widerman are here specially to give a boost to the Think Together movement.
The programme started with some 30 youths with a symposium last Monday followed by a consensus building with Mont Fleuri school and community leadership where they talked about what do students need to succeed and how can we make it happen? It was the students who presented their solutions and led the decision-making process. The same activity was repeated the following two days at the Plaisance and Beau Vallon secondary schools.
“Then on Friday, we met with a smaller group of students to really make sure we have one vision. Everything we presented today is the voice of the students. The thing that was really inspiring in all three schools is that the same issues were coming out. The way to solve student engagement and motivation is to make sure everybody is on the same page,” explained Ms Nair.
Ms Lindroth and her project associate worked with the youth for a week. She presented a blueprint to address student motivation and engagement through the proposed initiatives.
“It was reported that 75% of students report feeling a lack of motivation in school and educators report that students are not motivated to perform well in school and lack self-motivation. After working with the focus group, the students noted that the students work together with adults to make decisions such as student voice is acted upon (agency in decision making); students and adults work as a team; students and adults: listen and ‘let them try it’; students and teachers are role models for each other; parents, teachers, and community encourage and support one another to express their true and unique selves and adults should take quality time to understand and support youth working on activities aligned to personal interests,” noted Ms Lindroth.
The American consultant also talked about how disengagement from the students is the responsibility of both the child and the adult.
“There is a need to promote the voice of the students and the priorities of the students are to overturn the culture of bullying and judgment; to increase trust and respect between everyone; to promote student voice; and to build a culture of belonging and strength based celebration,” she explained.
The students also voiced out about having more creative and entrepreneurial activities for them after school and the small group that followed the sessions pledged that they will be the change and bring the change in the society.
What motivated Ms Nair to initiate such a process?
“I care a lot about education and youth empowerment as a young person myself and who went through the school system here and I think our kids sometimes get labelled as unmotivated or not interested without an effort to really put their voice in the leadership and decision-making and also get their voice heard in the process. We want a community where our youths are engaged in activities that prepare them for a bright future. We want to build understanding among all stakeholders and understand the investment needed to improve the situation for our young people,” noted Ms Nair.
Ms Nair also recalled that “when I visited the US and saw the work Catherine was doing in her company, I thought we can have this here; we can have long courses during the holidays; we can have after school activities where we are paying teachers to give their time, it makes a big difference to the kids. So I started to think of a way to bring her here and started finding support from local partners. This is only the beginning for me and I am really happy that we had so many people coming and supporting. I feel inspired and I hope to meet with people regularly to just make sure we continue this work.”
This half-day activity was full of engagement between the youth and adults and interestingly all the youth present were full of confidence and expressed themselves without any hesitation.