Sunday , March 26 2023

SKJ Vocational training: Program successfully overhauled

The Second Chance Education SKJ program implemented by Foundation Social Workplace Saba (FSWS) has relocated from the former Adult Continuing Education Center in The Bottom to the newly upgraded Eugenius Johnson Center in Windwardside. This writes the Daily Herald in the Weekender. In September, the overhauled program received a positive inspection assessment from the Dutch Ministry of Education OCW for its curriculum development and improvement in learning environment.

The classroom and computer centre facilities are now hosted in an upgraded environment with access to a large hall for multi-media presentations, themed expositions, activities as well as access to the social-kitchen run by Saba Lions Club. The 13 participants in the program are offered a small stipend for attendance and a free daily lunch at the centre, improving the retention in the program. Student counsellor Connie Adkins ensures the individualized attention needed and progress made by each participant.

Funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education OCW, the second SKJ program on Saba serves youth ages 18-24 who left high school without a diploma or the qualification needed to enter the workforce. It is different to the vocational track education program run by Saba Comprehensive School for up to age 18. Th e SKJ allows youth to attain an MBO 2 degree, an OCW-recognized vocational-stream degree. FSWS implements this program in its current form since 2010, having had a history of previously implementing the equivalent SVP (Sociale Vormingsplicht-Social training) program under the Netherlands Antilles administration. FSWS director La-Toya Charles says that since last January the foundation installed a new board in an attempt to deal with SKJ capacity challenges, such as securing teachers, poorly defined curriculum, a lacking pre-trajectory framework and an absence of agreements with MBO schools. Island Councilman Carl Buncamper, the head of the overseeing Project Bureau, requested that OCW intervene with assistance on developing the full curriculum of the program. FSWS next entered into cooperation with Fundashon FORMA Bonaire, a sister entity there with similar goals and programs, so as to jointly build up the SKJ program and develop the curriculum.

Since August, FSWS hired a fulltime teacher Vincent Jwan Stroom, originally from Suriname. Stroom holds a pedagogic degree and worked for many years on Curacao at the College of the Dutch Caribbean. Within the newly-revamped program, Stroom teaches all subjects and sections of the program. SKJ now has a pre-trajectory component, a reintroduction to the educational environment that focuses on the social skills needed by students to re-enter the job market or re-enter an academic stream. This portion of the program requires three months. The integrated curriculum targets eight competencies such as teamwork, how to present oneself professionally, pronunciation and timelines. The daily classes include English, Dutch, computer, arithmetic, self-reflection and a social skills projects portfolio with weekly presentations and activities.

Each month, SKJ features a chosen theme project. In September, the theme was sustainable agriculture. This month, the theme is conservation work and the “Sea and Learn” lecture series. The SKJ participants will work with the Saba Conservation Foundation in November.

Agricultural engineer Otto Manuel Anderez Ramos, foreman of FSWS’ Organoponic Garden project at The Level, hosted the SKJ activities in September. The apprentices at the FSWS Organoponics Garden Sheltered Working Environment also took part in all morning agriculture workshops coordinated by Ramos. The first session on the sixth was held on the theme of agriculture and food, discussing the state of hunger worldwide. The workshops included issues of nutrition and healthy dietary alternatives on Saba. Participants were informed about the history and purpose of the Organoponic Garden within the community. The SKJ participants were also exposed to the curriculum developed for the agricultural apprentices and participated in theoretical and practical activities.

The following week, on the 13th, the participants presented their assignments on food production on Saba, combining the theory and practice elements learnt. These facilitated discussions were on the relationship between the marine and terrestrial environment and the sustainability of the community. Local farmers joined the youth’s discussions and invited the youth to visit their farms. They visited James Zagers’ farm and that of Franklin “Mopsy” Every, as well as others in Hell’s Gate and The Bottom. SKJ participants had to select and present on common local fruits and vegetables crops.

On September 20, teacher Sue Hurrell from Saba Conservation Foundation presented to the SKJ group on the impact of land erosion on Saba. She spoke about how the unregulated boom in goat population relates to erosion and the preservation of Saba’s biodiversity. In addition to the screening of a nature-conservation themed video, the group engaged in related activities.

Local artist Susan Tenholt led an art workshop focusing on drawing ideas from nature. All drawings were put on display in the hall. On the 27th, the group was engaged in an organic food preparation workshop led by job coach and Chef Michel Jansen. The group took part in a food tasting of salads made of local fruits and vegetables, muffins as well as health snacks. Bas van Haaren, who manages Island Gelato, a local icecream business, also presented that day. He treated the participants to a tasting of local rosemary, mango and sour-sop ice creams.

This month SKJ participants are busy attending the “Sea and Learn” activities and lecture series, making the most of the learning opportunities made available in the community. FSWS is currently preparing the group for a trip in November to St. Maarten where they will participate in a career fair followed by teambuilding activities.

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