KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Supervised School Intervention Programme by the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF) was born out of concern for the wellbeing of youngsters who have been suspended from school and were often observed partaking in idle activities for the suspension period.
The initiative, brainchild of DRF Network Manager Sharon Young Palmer, was started at the Foundation's Spanish Town Peace and Justice Centre in 2006 and later expanded to the peace and justice centres in St James, Clarendon, St Catherine and Kingston.
“I conceptualised the Supervised School Intervention Programme because it was my observation that students were suspended from school and were sent home for a period, but they had no treatment for what led to the suspension and so the behavioural problems continued,” Young Palmer said.
“So I thought it would be good to have a programme that would assist the youths in understanding their responsibility as young citizens and as students. It was about us just helping them to understand their responsibilities better and to know what they need to do to become good and productive citizens,” she added.
She said that the initial stages of the programme highlighted the root cause of certain antisocial, maladaptive and disrespectful behaviour which usually leads to suspension of students.
These included underlying challenges from circumstances such as loss of a parent, untreated trauma, parental separation, as well as academic and intellectual difficulties at school.
“It became necessary for us to solicit support from guidance counsellors in the schools. They would volunteer an hour or two and they would be matched with students from schools other than their own and gave great assistance in treating some of the conditions,” Young Palmer said.
Students doing practicum in social work and guidance counselling were also engaged as a part of the programme to help to identify, treat with the challenges and make referrals.
She further noted that a component of the programme is geared at rapport building, achieved through techniques introduced in the playing of games such as chess and dominoes.
“So you help them learn how to get along with each other, to have friendly rivalry, to learn how to lose…to understand that you don't have to win all the time but you can be a good sport,” Young Palmer said.
Art classes, done through support from volunteer teachers, is also used as a form of therapy to help the youngsters.
She said the programme also conducts parenting sessions to ensure parents have a clearer understanding of the experiences of their children and are prepared to provide support.