Hazel Durand reports that, for the first time, the Sociale Kanstraject (SKJ) program on Saba managed by the Saba Reach Foundation will be offering middelbaar beroepsonderwijs (MBO) level 1 to high school dropouts or to those students who only received a school leaving certificate at the end of their high school years.
For the past 4 months students had been preparing for MBO1 through a pre-trajectory assisted greatly by sister foundation FORMA of Bonaire. Having similar functions and programs including SKJ, facilitators from Bonaire visited Saba to train teachers and administrators. The pre-trajectory assisted the students with getting back into the routine of high school and managing the workload. Focus was also on the development of social skills competencies.
“We paired up with FORMA because they have a very strong program that has always been recognized by OCW-CN (Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sciences) as having a basic quality standard within the BES islands,” explained Saba Reach Foundation Director La-Toya Charles.
“With our target group we wanted to get them aware of the basic competencies and think about them, such as showing up to work on time, presenting yourself, speaking up for yourself, asking questions when you are unclear about things. This is what we had them thinking and talking about in those introductory sessions,” Charles explained.
Having completed the pre-trajectory the students have now commenced with MBO1. SKJ is receiving assistance from the Gwendolyn van Putten School on St. Eustatius as a transition from the initial social skills program into MBO1. After cooperation with the Saba Comprehensive School was not granted it was recommended by OCW that SKJ partner with the Gwendolyn van Putten School.
The program consists of five modules: career and citizenship, Dutch, English, Math and Workshops. With MBO1 50% of the program entails internships, where the students participate in a 18 week internship working 8 hours daily. The students are currently enrolled in internships at an after school care program, Government Public Works Department, security and more.
“The students are really enjoying the program. It is giving them an insight on how the labor market functions and how to cope with different competencies compulsory to daily life,” said Teacher Vincent Stroom. “They have expressed their desire to complete the program, understanding that it is an opportunity they should take full advantage of. I am really happy to be able to assist and guide these students through this major phase of their lives.”
Charles said the added value of the MBO1 was that participants holding a leaving school certificate are not automatically granted access to the two year MBO2 programs within the BES whereas students holding an MBO1 certificate could overcome this hindrance.
An evaluation at the end of July will determine whether the students are up to par to enter MBO2, which they can follow at the Saba Comprehensive School or at any other school within the kingdom offering MBO2. These levels are focused on the development of assistant vocational professional and vocational professional skills respectively.
Funded by OCW adolescents between 18 and 24 are welcomed to this program, where OCW fund all study tools, the teachers and a monthly stipend per participant. Already familiar throughout the BES islands this stipend as a bonus is new to the island and encourages regular participation by the students. A student can receive between $150 to $188 monthly dependent on a student’s percentage of regular attendance to classes.
“We have 8 students enrolled now and they come regularly. They have said that they have noted changes in their lives. They are more conscience about the decisions they make and about the choices they want to make for the future. The teachers and administrators of SKJ has seen a marked growth in most of the students,” Charles noted.
Student Alejandro Benders (21) chose to participate in the MBO program after only receiving a school leaving certificate. Currently employed as a security officer at a local bank Benders said the program allows flexibility for him to have a day time job and go to school in the evening. He said as he progresses in the program it has widened his scope of career fields worth pursuing.
“Understanding that a diploma is very important now a days to get a good job, with or without the monthly allowance, I would still continue in the program.” He said the stipend is still a great asset to covering day to day expenses.