The experiences of alumni adolescents on the contribution of the Mondesa Youth Opportunities programme
The adolescent developmental phase has encouraged many research studies as a result of the diversity and dynamics of this period of life. This phase is characterised by a range of challenges on an intrapersonal level, in family life, peer group settings and school settings. Various studies confirm that every aspect of adolescent development is influenced by experiences at school. Secondary school (Grades 8 to 12) is also considered to be a critical time for creating healthy and cohesive societies, since it forms the link between primary education and higher education, and the labour market. However, in low and middle income countries, such as Namibia, many adolescents grow up in conditions of poverty, which present them with fewer opportunities, experiences, resources and services that are essential for them to become healthy and productive adults. Educational opportunities are limited, while most of the learning resources or learning opportunities are unaffordable. In Namibia, the educational system has made progress since Independence in 1990. However, there remains a lack of instructional materials, a high proportion of unqualified teachers, and a scarcity of pre-primary education programmes. In the township of Mondesa in Swakopmund, the schools are overcrowded and children reach Grade 8 with literacy and numeracy skills far below the required level. The need for interventions in improving education and alleviating constraints, such as overcrowded classes, unqualified teachers and lack of resources the system is facing is evident and this has resulted in programmes attempting to make a difference in this sector. The Mondesa Youth Opportunities (MYO) Programme is one such initiative, aiming at providing educational assistance to underprivileged students drawn from disadvantaged schools in Swakopmund. They present learners with free afternoon education with classes in English, mathematics and reading. Classes for computer skills, life skills, music and sport are also included, to provide the learners with a stimulating environment and exposure to a variety of activities to expand their life world and experience. The board members of MYO have not yet attempted a comprehensive evaluation to judge and justify the efforts of the programme, since this would be a complex and costly endeavour. This study aimed at exploring the experiences of alumni adolescents on the contribution of the programme. The results could possibly form a basis for future more comprehensive evaluations of the programme and make the possibility of such an endeavour more feasible. This is a qualitative study and data was gathered through focus groups of adolescents who are currently in Grades 9 to 12 and who have previously attended the programme. After thematic analysis the findings of the study pointed out various contributions the programme experienced by the adolescents, pointing out themes that possibly provides a platform for starting future research on the effectiveness of the programme. The adolescents experienced various benefits as a result of attending the programme. This included enhancement of academic performance, cognitive development, provision of resources, and introduction to unfamiliar content, such as sports and music that taught them new skills, and helped them to find their own talents. The life skills classes provided them with useful knowledge for everyday life. The findings also suggest that the adolescents experienced an influence in their intrapersonal skills by gaining more confidence in their abilities, becoming more independent and learning to take responsibility. On a social level, the programme provided them with opportunities to make friends. The relationships they had with some of the teachers at MYO proved to be invaluable as a source of emotional support. These findings have contributed to an understanding of the adolescents’ experiences of the programme, and have highlighted positive experiences and various challenges adolescents faced in terms of the implementation of the programme, such as the amount of effort and time required to participate in the programme. Conclusions were made to provide MYO management with valuable feedback and suggestions for further research.
- Humanities