By Elesha George
The wheels spun all the way off the bus as little feet danced and played on Friday morning – a special treat for children at the AGAPE preschool.
The Tindale Road institution was the first beneficiary of the Youth Connect Mentorship Initiative aimed at providing psychosocial support at schools.
Julien Kentish, Youth Development Officer of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) St John’s Rural South constituency said the programme’s goal is to create an atmosphere that is comfortable for students to balance both study and “play.”
“It aims to go within the schools in our community – primary and secondary, also preschools, both private and public – and share that experience, share that youthful vibe.”
“It’s a balance between doing your academics, practicing, studying, learning and extra curriculum,” he said.
The community group will also refer students who may need extra help.
“We have identified so far diverse young children. We even have children with special needs and we’re able to make them come out of their shell,” he noted.
Principal of the school, Nicola Lynch was happy for the initiative, telling Observer jokingly, “I was really happy to get a little relief from the children, having someone take over.”
Lynch has been an educator for 30 years, and when asked about how she cares for her special needs students she replied, “We don’t separate them, we keep them together. It helps them to learn to behave quite normal.”
She is encouraging other schools to embrace the mentorship programme.
“Let the children have fun. It doesn’t matter if they’re autistic, or have Downs syndrome – we have all types of children. If they intermingle, they learn from the other children so they too can behave normal like the other children.”
Education Minister Daryl Matthew also paid a courtesy visit to the school.
He told Observer “It’s always important to show our children that there are role models in our society. And even as young as the daycare age, it’s important for them to see positive role models and to receive all of the support that they can get because studies have shown that access to early childhood education and access to that sort of mental stimulation plays a critical role in the development of children.“
The youth group will continue to visit different schools in the community, hoping to make a positive impact on the lives of young people.