We’re very pleased with the way our new vocational programme is going – it’s helping our less-academic kids gain some very useful skills that let them their sights on future jobs.

We’re not talking about ‘slow learners’ who just need an extra ten minutes of teacher’s time every now and then – these are children with significant learning difficulties. In the UK they would probably be sent to a special needs-type school.

They see their classmates shooting ahead and they find themselves left behind, feeling confused, isolated and losing hope for their future. It becomes difficult for the teacher too, seeing a kid getting demoralised and then watching that turn to boredom, distraction and then trouble-making.

So at the beginning of this year, a new vocational/life skills group was formed within Child of Hope school. Alongside our staff, Emma Stewart (UK volunteer teaching advisor) formed a new style of syllabus for these children which focuses on the simple basics of reading, writing and maths. During the morning hours, 12 children work around a big table with teacher Juliet, going over such things as phonics training and simple number recognitions. Juliet does her best to make it fun and interesting while taking it at a very slow pace.

During the afternoons, lessons get really interesting! We’ve employed community members who come in and teach vocational skills. Mr Mayeku works with some of the children on carpentry and they’ve made simple money boxes, stools, folding chairs and free-standing shelves for the library. Sarah comes in and spends time with the children showing them tailoring skills. They all have a go and have made simple cushions and bags together.

Julia comes in and works with the children on jewellery-making. The kids have had great fun thinking up new designs and carefully, painstakingly threading beads to make colourful necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Their first batch were swiftly snapped up by our female staff members who were happy to pay for their new accessories – the profits from which go towards more materials for the vocational programme.

The change in the children is starting to show… they have greater enthusiasm for coming to school, they’re proud to be a part of a new pioneering group (they’ve nicknamed themselves ‘P8’ as normal primary school finishes at ‘P7’!) and they’re seeing that they can be good at something. In fact, it’s so popular that some of the more academic children have been asking to join the group!

It is still in its early stages and we are keeping a careful eye on its progress, but we’re pleased that analysis shows the children are doing well. We have plans to bring in other vocational skills later in the year and we are excited to see what the future holds for these children.

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