Redirecting...

Chapter 14

SECURITY AND HEALTH

14.4 SKILLS THAT BUILD RESILIENCE

14.4.1Legislative and Policy Framework

ACTS

  • The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 [SASA]
  • Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998 [EEA]

14.4.2Framework for the Development of School Policy on Skills that Build Resilience

This chapter outlines pro-active interventions that schools can take to prevent violence, crime and abuse and to promote safe schools and well-being.
There are many children in South Africa and the rest of the world who face difficult and uncomfortable situations on a daily basis, but who do not follow a path of violence or crime. What makes some youth and children turn to violence while others from the same community do not? Research conducted here and overseas shows that children who do not choose a path of violence or crime, even if they are exposed to violence regularly, have particular “tools” that help them to choose a non-violent pathway. We call these tools “resilience factors” – the tools that help youth to resist a violent pathway and choose a non-violent one.
Some of these resilience factors include a feeling of competency at school, feeling supported and cared for, having a strong sense of self-esteem, having values, being good at problem solving and at communicating effectively, having the confidence to deal with diversity, and being involved in community based or group activities.
Important life skills include the ability to take control, to make plans and decisions, to change personal direction, to ask for help, and to stand back and reflect. Importantly, these are also the skills that enable people to give to others and to their communities. With giving comes a sense of belonging and an increase in self-esteem. An increase in self-esteem results in positive behaviour.
In summary, resilience tools:

  • Help you to cope better in life;
  • Help you to say NO when you don’t what to do something;
  • Enable you to do more things for yourself;
  • Instil a sense of pride from doing things yourself;
  • Help you make decisions that are good for you and your community;
  • Give you insight into how the world works;
  • Enable you to make discoveries about yourself and the world;
  • Enable you to make better choices for yourself and your community;
  • Instil a sense of self-respect and self-esteem.
  1. Skills that build resilience
    • Communication skills
      How do good communication skills help to build resilience?

      • Good communicators manage effective and successful social interactions that bring quality, meaning and satisfaction to their lives.
      • Communication skills facilitate social acceptance, integration and involvement with others.
      • Communication skills reduce the chance of interpersonal conflict turning into violent conflict.
      • Good communicators are able to express their needs and feelings – a first step in getting those needs met.
    • What does poor communication lead to?
      • Feelings of powerlessness and isolation. If people are unable to express their needs and their feelings, they may turn to activities that make them feel even worse about themselves.
      • Introspection and narrow-mindedness.
      • Barriers to making contact with others.
    • How can learners be helped to communicate more effectively?
      • In the classroom:
        • Be aware of the learners who do not speak often. Encourage them to communicate with you in private and help to build their confidence.
        • Don’t let the same learners talk all the time.
        • Help learners to recognise the difference between good and poor communication; rephrase some of their questions and comments in a supportive manner.
        • Ask learners to role-play being a good listener and a bad listener.
        • Ask learners to role-play different ways of speaking about their needs and their feelings.
      • Through intervention programmes:
        Following are a few examples of interventions that worked in schools. Some may be helpful but remember that each situation is unique and needs its own specific intervention.

        Aim Method Useful Resources
        To get learners to think about how they communicate. Ask learners to answer three questions:

        • Why is communication important?
        • When is communication good?
        • When is communication bad?

        Discuss the answers and develop a checklist for good communication.

        An educator who is able to communicate well and with whom the learners feel comfortable.
        To get learners to realise the effects of good and bad communication. Ask learners to answer two questions:
        When communication works it leaves me with feelings of . . .
        When communication does not work it leaves me with feelings of . . .
        An educator who is able to communicate well and with whom the learners feel comfortable.
        To get learners to practice listening skills. Divide learners into pairs. Ask one person in the pair to talk to their partner for about five minutes about something they find interesting. The listener should help the person speaking by asking some questions but do no more than that. After five minutes ask each listener to tell his or her partner what he/she was talking about. Go around the group and ask the “tellers” to give the listeners a mark out of ten, based on how well they thought the listeners had listened. Get them to motivate this mark by giving examples. Then change the listeners around and repeat the exercise. An educator who is able to communicate well and with whom the learners feel comfortable, and who is able to manage group interactions well.
    • Measuring the success of the intervention
      Work out a set of questions, for example:

      • Has communication in your classroom improved since you started using the exercises?
      • Next, decide what information is needed in order to answer these questions. For instance, if you are measuring how communication in the classroom might have improved, you will need to keep a record of examples that show how communication has improved.
      • Each action or intervention needs:
        • One or two key questions that will indicate whether the intervention has been a success.
        • A plan for answering these questions.
        • An indication of how the results of the evaluation will be addressed.
    • Helpful National Contact Numbers
      Communication skills are one part of general life skills. There are organisations that you can contact who will deal with communication skills as part of life skills.
  2. Alternatives to violence
    • Finding alternatives to violence requires certain skills. How do these skills build resilience in learners?
      • Learners come to understand the nature of conflict and violence, and how conflict can escalate into violence when certain behavioural choices are made.
      • Learners come to understand that violence is linked to power, and explore alternative ways of testing and expressing their own power.
      • Learners develop skills to respond to violence with non-violence.
      • Learners develop skills to intervene in violence in a non-violent manner.
      • Learners develop skills to speak to one another in a manner that is not threatening or aggressive.
      • Learners develop the ability to get in touch with their own feelings of violence and aggression, and in this way begin to make choices as to how they act out their anger and insecurity.
      • Learners develop better communication skills and respond to one another’s concerns and interests.
    • What can violent interaction lead to?
      • When all disputes and arguments are settled by resorting to violence, learners begin to believe that violence is the only way to resolve conflict.
      • Violent interactions inside and outside the school premises often lead to revenge attacks; it becomes increasingly difficult to break the cycle of violence.
      • Violence is often linked to power: Learners who use violence may feel powerful but this power is without substance and can be taken away.
      • Educators who use violence or corporal punishment in the classroom are sending out a message that violence is OK.
    • How can learners be encouraged to practice principles of non-violence?
      • In the classroom
        • Don’t allow learners to be violent in the classroom. But remember not to use violence to tell your learners not to use violence!
        • Encourage learners to talk to one another about their feelings of anger in a way that help them to find solutions. Don’t be afraid of anger: encourage expression in a constructive manner.
        • Discuss the impact and effects that violence has on young people and children – on their self-esteem, their emotional well-being, and their sense of safety.
        • Introduce role models such as sports stars, politicians and music stars – people who have achieved power and status in ways that have not involved violence.
      • Through intervention programmes
        Here are a few examples of interventions that worked in schools. Some may be helpful but remember that each situation is unique and needs its own specific intervention.

        Aim Method Useful Resources
        To help learners resolve conflicts without using violence. Some schools select learners to be trained as peer counsellors. These peer counsellors are given skills to intervene in conflicts between learners in a manner which encourages dialogue and which is non-violent. Peer mediators become well known in the school and are soon called upon whenever there is a threat of violence breaking out among learners. Learners who are well-respected and mature to act as mediators.
        To encourage educators to use alternative forms of discipline to corporal punishment. Today maintaining discipline in school is sometimes very difficult for educators. There are, however, successful alternatives to corporal punishment. Discipline should not be viewed in terms of severe punishment or violence. This has been shown NOT to help with changing the behaviour of learners. View discipline as a means of upholding expectations for a code of decent conduct. Provide recognition and reinforcement for newly learned skills and behaviour. Have appropriate expectations for all learners and help to provide learners with the opportunity, support and encouragement to meet those expectations. Educators who are well informed about effective forms of discipline, and who are flexible and sensitive in their use of discipline. The booklet “Alternatives to Corporal Punishment: The Learning Experience,” Department of Education (2000).
    • Measuring the success of the intervention
      • Work out a set of questions, for example:
        • Has violent interaction between learners in your school decreased since you introduced the peer mediation programme?
        • Next, decide what information is needed in order to answer these questions. For instance, if you are measuring how violence has decreased, you will need to keep a record of incidences of violence over a period of six months.
      • Each action or intervention needs:
        • One or two key questions that will indicate whether the intervention has been a success;
        • A plan for answering these questions;
        • An indication of how the results of the evaluation will be addressed.
    • Helpful National Contact Numbers
      NICRO Parents Programmes; Family Group Conferencing
      Tel: (021) 422 1225
      E-mail: nicro@wn.apc.org
      Web site: www.nicro.org.za
  3. Improving self-esteem
    • How does high self-esteem build resilience?
      • Self-esteem is sometimes described as armour against the world. Young people who feel good about themselves find it easier to handle conflicts and resist negative pressure;
      • Young people with high self-esteem will enjoy social contact and group activities;
      • They will voice discontent without belittling others or themselves. They will say, “I don’t understand this” instead of “I’m an idiot”.
    • What are the effects of low self-esteem?
      • People who have low self-esteem battle to cope with challenges and have many self-critical thoughts;
      • They become passive, withdrawn and depressed;
      • They may not want to try new things or may give up easily;
      • They are pessimistic.
    • How can learners be encouraged to build self-esteem?
      • In the classroom:
        • Praise learners for effort as well as for tasks well done. Focus on the effort and completion rather than on the outcome. For example, say, “Well, you didn’t make the soccer team but I’m really proud of the effort you put into it”.
        • Be a good role model. Learners will mirror educators who are overly harsh on themselves.
        • Encourage the learner to be realistic about situations. If a learner struggles with maths he/she may say, “I’m a bad student”. The educator should respond by saying, “You are a good student. Maths is just something you need to spend more time on”. Make sure your feedback is positive and accurate. Praise for good decisions (walking away rather than fighting with a fellow learner) will encourage the learner to make the right choice again.
        • Encourage learners to become involved in constructive activities. These are activities that encourage co-operation. For instance, in mentoring programmes older learners offer support to new or younger learners.
      • Through intervention programmes
        Here are a few examples of interventions that worked in schools. Some may be helpful but remember that each situation is unique and needs its own specific intervention.

        Aim Method Useful Resources
        To help learners appreciate the importance of encouraging good self-esteem in others. Divide learners into small groups to discuss what self-esteem is and the effect that being belittled or put down has on them. Get them think to about good and bad ways of giving another person feedback. An educator who can manage group discussions and who is knowledgeable about building self-esteem.
        To help learners recognise the ways in which they put themselves down. Help learners think about what kinds of things make them feel bad about themselves and why. Get them to identify statements or feelings that  are inaccurate, for example, “I can’t do anything right”. An educator who can handle issues sensitively and with compassion.
    • Measuring the success of the intervention
      • Work out a set of questions, for example:
        • Have learners begun to develop a more accurate perception of their own abilities?
      • Next, decide what information is needed in order to answer these questions. For instance, if you are measuring whether learners are evaluating their abilities more accurately, you will need to record the kinds of things that they say about themselves. It may be useful to get learners to record this themselves and monitor how it changes over time.
      • Each action or intervention needs:
        • One or two key questions that will indicate whether the intervention has been a success;
        • A plan for answering these questions;
        • An indication of how the results of the evaluation will be addressed.
  4. Values and Moral Grounding
    • How do values and moral grounding build resilience?
      • By helping learners to make decisions about “right” and “wrong” in difficult situations;
      • By feeling part of a larger society that respects rights and responsibilities;
      • By making the learner feel valued and cared for.
    • What does a lack of values and moral grounding lead to?
      • An environment where educators and learners treat each other without respect, fairness or honesty;
      • A lack of understanding of what is considered right and wrong by society;
      • Relationships characterised by suspicion and a lack of honesty;
      • Learners have no religious, spiritual or political grounding.
    • How can educators help learners to develop morals and values?
      • In the classroom:
        • Educators have to treat learners and colleagues with respect. Children mirror the behaviour of adults;
        • Learners need to be given opportunities to take on roles that require moral responsibility, particularly in meeting the needs of the school. However, they should not equate moral responsibility with passive obedience;
        • Learners should be encouraged to develop social problem-solving skills, as this will instill the values that underpin non-confrontational interaction;
        • Learners could be encouraged to explore paths in politics, spirituality and religion.
      • Through intervention programmes
        Here are a few examples of interventions that worked in schools. Some may be helpful but remember that each situation is unique and needs its own specific intervention.

        Aim Method Useful Resources
        To create an understanding of what good morals are. Some approaches to character education include using people who are good moral role models. This may entail telling stories about role models such as Nelson Mandela, and discussing why he is a good example of a moral person and what his characteristics are. An educator who is familiar with historical and political figures and who could give examples of good role models.
        To get learners to reflect critically on their own moral beliefs and views. Learners can reflect on real life events and decide how best to respond to a particular situation. An educator who is sensitive to the emotions that this exercise may evoke in learners, and who will reinforce their own positive descriptions of themselves.
    • Measuring the success of the intervention
      • Work out a set of questions, for example:
        • Have learners begun to reflect on the morality of their actions?
      • Next, decide what information is needed in order to answer these questions. For instance, if you are measuring whether learners have begun to consider the morality of their actions, you will need to record the behaviours that reflect good and bad morality and monitor these over time.
      • Each action or intervention needs:
        • One or two key questions that will indicate whether the intervention has been a success;
        • A plan for answering these questions;
        • An indication of how the results of the evaluation will be addressed.
    • Helpful National Contact Numbers
  5. Preparing learners to navigate the world of work
    • How does preparing learners to apply for jobs help them build resilience?
      • Learners feel confident when they move into the world of work because they know what to expect.
      • Learners are given information to help them gain and keep employment after school, increasing self-esteem and confidence.
      • Learners are aware of the norms and values that govern workplace interactions, making it easier for them to fit in.
      • Learners have the skills to perform jobs well, increasing self-esteem and confidence.
    • What does a lack of knowledge and skills about the world of work lead to?
      • Lack of confidence when applying for employment.
      • An inability to interact in a professional manner when in the workplace.
      • A lack of the necessary skills to work effectively.
      • Re-enforcement of a negative self-image.
      • Giving up on the “world of work” and turning to crime.
    • How can learners develop skills to effectively prepare them for employment?
      • In the classroom:
        • Educators need to be aware of their own manner of interacting and dressing at work, and set an example by acting in a professional manner towards their colleagues.
        • Educators must insist on appropriate interpersonal skills from learners. These would include respect for others, keeping to time, and being neat and tidy.
      • Through intervention programmes
        Here are a few examples of interventions that worked in schools. Some may be helpful but remember that each situation is unique and needs its own specific intervention.

        Aim Method Useful Resources
        To teach learners how to apply for work. Have a series of lessons in which learners go through the newspapers and look for job advertisements. Help them to draft a CV and write a formal letter of application. Have learners role play interviews with one another. An educator who is able to draft formal letters and CVs and has experience of interviews.
        Developing skills for particular jobs. Take part in a work experience programme. Arrange for learners to ‘work’ at local businesses and companies for a week so that they can see what work in a field of their interest is like. The co-operation of local industry and businesses.
    • Measuring the success of the intervention
      • Work out a set of questions, for example:
        • Do learners know how to write a CV? Apply for a job? Prepare for an interview? Conduct a successful interview?
      • Next, decide what information is needed in order to answer these questions. For instance, if you are measuring whether learners can apply for jobs and write a CV, test them on their ability.
      • Each action or intervention needs:
        • One or two key questions that will indicate whether the intervention has been a success.
        • A plan for answering these questions.
        • An indication of how the results of the evaluation will be addressed.
    • Helpful National Contact Numbers
    • SchoolNet SA
      Helps design curricula and develop the capacity of educators and learners.
      Tel: (011) 403 3952
      E-mail: info@schoolnet.org.za
      Web site: http://www.schoolnet.org.za/
    • Democracy Development Programme (DDP)
      Youth empowerment and democracy education
      Tel: (031) 304 9305/6
      E-mail: ddpl@iafrica.com
      Web site: http://ddp.org.za/
    • Human Rights Watch Africa
      Offers advice on human rights, in particular the Bill of Rights.
      Web site: https://www.hrw.org/