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Educator hails transformation of participants in Learning for Life programme

BY KARYL WALKER walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 14, 2014    

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TRAINING co-ordinator for the Institute for Workforce Education Development, (IWED) Melva Blake has hailed the transformation of the individuals who enter the Diageo Learning For Life programme as amazing.

The institute partners with Learning for Life to assist the students with training in several areas, including hospitality, customer service and other business courses, data entry, supervisory management, grounds and landscaping and housekeeping.

Entrants in the programme must have at least grade nine literacy and numeracy skills, but according to Blake, many of the entrants are functionally illiterate.

"We can see the transformation in how far we have come, in attitude, in speech. Their attitude has changed from 'can't bother this morning', 'couldn't bother to come because I never feel good'. It came in packages like 'Yow me dog'. We had to learn now that dog is no longer an insult. We had to learn that it meant friend or confidante. So we learnt from each other," Blake, a former teacher, told Jamaica Observer editors and reporters at this week's Monday Exchange.

She said the training had been somewhat of an interdependent one as the tutors learnt street jargon while students learnt to speak the English language properly and remove the stigma that it was 'nerdy' to speak properly.

Blake said some entrants came into the programme with low self-esteem but by the time the three-month course ended their outlook had become positive and they were eager to make a positive contribution to society.

"We had to get into the idea that you had to work to earn a living. Standing on the corner was one good thing because at least you could stand up. But you want to work you have to get paid. So that level of transformation had to take place first before we could impart to them that there is work in Jamaica," she said.

Blake, however, said there were several challenges that some applicants had to face as many were teenage mothers and fathers.

She said a number of them tried to get Red Stripe's head of Corporate Relations Dianne Ashton-Smith to open a daycare centre to keep their children.

"Some had two or three children. There were many days when the children with the bottle would be under the chair and the mother is there and you have to give breaks to feed the babies," she said.

She said the students moved from being on-edge and breaking into fist fights to become close friends due to the specialised training that is delivered in the Learning For Life programme.

IWED has trained some 2,500 people in the last three years.

"We were able to maintain 80 to 90 per cent passes once the transformation had taken place because they learn that it is not a one-shot exam and they learn that it is not all academic. At the end of three months they were able to be successful and feel good about themselves," she said.

The Learning For Life Programme is funded by Red Stripe and partners with the HEART Trust/NTA and the Social Development Commission.

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