The Grahamstown Scout Group (initially a Cub Pack) was established in 2014 by a group of Rhodes University students who craved to share the value of Scouting with other young people! The group was established in partnership with St Mary’s Development and Care Centre (DCC), a local organisation, and Rhodes University Community Engagement Division as well as many other student organisations, such as the RU Mountain Club to fulfil a gap for a boys’ life skills programme.
What skills and resources were you able to draw from the community for this project?
St Mary's Development and Care Center (DCC) is the primary partner of the Scout group. They facilitate a daily programme that the scouts are then selected from. The Rhodes University Community Engagement Division is where we pull most of our man power from. Through the Engaged Citizens Programme they run we recruit and mentor volunteers to run the weekly programme along side us. The Rhodes University Mountain Club resources the scout group by offering their equipment and expertise for the technical and outdoor aspects of the programme (such as hiking, camping or rock climbing). The World Scout Movement and Scouts South Africa give us a network and credibility in the national and international arena. All of the above partnerships are long-established and sustainable (having been maintained for 6 years already).
Many of the children in the DCC have barriers to reaching their full ptential and well-being due to varying degrees of poverty, nutritional needs, lack of stimulating environments, family disruption (domestic violence and neglect, substance abuse, inadequate housing, lack of protection/safety). Often these children are seen as problematic, therefore deficient view of themselves. Their behaviour is challenging and not many adults are robust enough to take on the challenge. The group was set up to tackle these issues in an alternative situation to a sports programme (which is often all that is available to boys).
Addressing the challenges
Documentation has been a huge factor in our success. Documentation informs your practice as a facilitator on how to move forward and reminds the children of their goals and where they’ve come from/revisiting concerns In our group we sometimes look at photos of previous campaigns to inform our groups approach to the current project. Three elements guide our practice (all of which overlap)... The Reggio Emilia Approach: Child- centric, attuned to the child’s interests, observant, hearing a child’s concerns, emergent (not pre-set), the child shapes the agenda. This approach is “open-hearted (avoiding closure), open-minded (welcoming the unexpected) and open-hearted (valuing diversity and difference)”. The Reggio approach is one of the best educational approaches in the world. It's philosophy is based on the 100 languages which lets children explore a concept in different ways. The adults responsibility is to make available child-friendly mediums of expression (this is particulatly important for literacy challenged, like ours!) The Scout Movement (non-formal education): Central to methodology is 'learning by doing'. The founder of the Reggio approach, Malaguzzi speaks to projects providing structure and narrative to the learning experience. Based on the strong conviction that learning by doing is of great importance. Core to the Scouting tradition are yarns (value-based stories/lessons), traditionally used around a campfire, meeting closure or to emphasise an approach/responsibility. Scouting is based on the Jungle book (deals of selflessness, generosity, service in a child-friendly way, tangible to form and ideal). We use Heartlines & Soul Buddyz material. From this project themes emerge. This gives children the opportunity to identify with issues and make connections in a conducive, safe environment to share truths of their own lives. Childrens' Rights principle of child participation: Article 12 of the UNCRC states that children have the right to be heard on matters affecting their life and have it given due weight. Children's rights underpins all our practice ensuring its respectful, alert, dignified. We seek opportunities for children to make commentary of issues affecting them (where previously they've been largely unheard). This Scout group has a unique role to play in Grahamstown. On numerous occasions the project has been shared at National and international conferences to inspire similar community development work!
Often children who have begun to speak a children rights language their surroundings become more equitable and respectful to the child. Parents (no matter the dire circumstance) desire more for their children. We have begun to see this dynamic: shared in stronger child-adult relationships when this culture has begun. Volunteers: we use the Asset Based approach which informs our practice (mutually beneficial, bi-directional Community Engagement that is jointly planned with all stakeholders) Using the Reggio Emilia approach to documentation is critical to monitoring the improvements in our boys. The project/campaign based approach has changed our boys behaviour. The following are some behavioural changes we've noticed: - More leadership: older boys showing compassion and empathy more. - Children take more ownership and responsibility for activities. - Adults are more trusting of the children. - Problem solving skills have improved. - Spontaneous innovation: boys more readily play and offer suggestions. - A generally more happy, organized relationship. - A sense of belonging! (for volunteers and the scouts) - Group work has become easier. - Peer support beyond Scout group. - More cooperation with adults. - More focussed and enthusiastic to cope with 'academic' tasks.