[b]Megan Foo: What inspires you to direct and work with SKIP?[/b]
[b]Liz Wilson:[/b] I think my ongoing motivation to work in SKIP is because the families we work with are truly some of the most courageous and wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. The past 5 years have been amazing and it has been incredible to see how the SKIP community; volunteers, families and staff, have all come together to create such a wonderful programme.
[b]Megan Foo: How has SKIP fulfilled its mission of helping economically disadvantaged children in El Porvenir realize their right to education?[/b]
[b]Liz Wilson:[/b] SKIP uses a holistic approach which means that we provide support in a range of areas in order to meet the many different challenges that families can face. Therefore, in addition to providing direct educational opportunities in the form of additional lessons and help with homework, we also support the entire family through programmes in social work, psychology and economic development. In order to provide assistance to families with the associated financial costs of education, we also provide uniforms and shoes for children and school equipment such as note books and stationary.
At the current time we are working with about 170 families and 300 children.
[b]Megan Foo: On a personal level, what does education mean to you? [/b]
[b]Liz Wilson:[/b] I guess I would say that I would see education as an ongoing process which will continue throughout our lives. In my opinion the objective of education in childhood should simply be to develop children's capacity to think for themselves, to question the world around them and become self learners, able to make the most of that continuing development in adulthood. In this sense we don't want to teach children what to think, we want to teach them how to think.
[b]Megan Foo: Can you tell us more about SKIP's primary, secondary, and English programs?[/b]
[b]Liz Wilson:[/b] We have 184 children enrolled in the Primary Education programme. Children receive 9 hours of additional lessons per week spread over three sessions. Art and sport are taught for one hour each while maths, communications and English are taught twice weekly for 40 minutes each. Children also have time for reading and help with homework, including access to our library on a daily basis when they do not have taught classes.
We start working with children in the Primary Education Programme at age 5 so we are able to provide a full year of additional classes before children start school. Through this early intervention, we are giving the children a head start so they are better prepared for the classroom environment at school and more able to concentrate and listen to their teacher. In this way, we aim to improve children's maths and reading abilities in particular and ensure that they do not fall behind in their regular classes.
In our Secondary Education Programme there are 94 children and young people participating. Each enrolled student receives 6 hours of additional education at SKIP per week, in 5 subject areas, split between two days. All students study English, Maths and Communications and can then choose two additional sessions from a range of options such as photography, art, sports and dance. We also have a youth volunteering programme where 12 young people who have graduated from secondary school are trained to volunteer as teaching assistants with the younger children at SKIP once per week.
Our work in the Secondary Education programme is so important because being a teenager is a difficult time in most people’s lives. It’s a time when people begin to take decisions about their future, develop skills and personal identities. That is why adolescence is the time when people need to be supported, helped, heard and encouraged towards their personal achievements.
Our English teaching programme has a preprepared curriculum for three levels which is then adapted to suit the needs of every class. In addition to teaching the 300 children in SKIP, we also teach around 700 other children at three public schools in El Porvenir and Alto Trujillo. As a required subject in Secondary school, our English programme provides children a head start or reinforcement in their studies and a unique opportunity to be taught by native English speakers.
[b]Megan Foo: How does SKIP measure impact?[/b]
[b]Liz Wilson:[/b] We collect a range of statistical data and review this using a log frame. We have built up our data collection over the past years and now collect the following information:
PPI (Progress Out of Poverty) scores
Exam testing in maths, English and communications twice yearly
Report cards from the public schools
Records of loans given and repayment information
Records of all social work/psychological interventions
The social work programme monitor progress in their group training sessions via exam testing, questionnaires and attendance records.
In addition to this last year we carried out a full review with participant families via questionnaire and we have a parent committee that meets monthly to provide feedback and support us in the continual development of the programme.
[b]Megan Foo: What are your hopes for SKIP's future?[/b]
[b]Liz Wilson:[/b] I suppose the simple answer to that is for us to be able to sustain and develop the programme to offer support to an increasing number of vulnerable families. We have been able to build a working partnership with a local school and are now working with 20 families and their 42 children using school classrooms that are not in use. This approach has the benefit of having minimal start up costs and also provides us with the ability to move our services to the most disadvantaged areas.