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A widely ignored aspect of educational interventions is childhood adversity. Young people from vulnerable backgrounds come from experiences of adversity which can include abuse, abandonment, experiences of crime, extreme poverty, poor nutrition and/or violence. Adversity affects a child’s ability to stay in school, pay attention and engage in learning, build healthy relationships, make healthy life choices and breakout of poverty.
Mainstream solutions focus on vocational skilling and school enrollment, but do not consider the impact of adversity. These solutions will have limited impact because they do not address the non-organic component of adversity, known as a failure to thrive which is observed in young people’s inability to demonstrate age-appropriate behaviours like paying attention and managing conflict. The lack of life skills is one of the most critical gap areas stopping young people to overcome adversity and develop the skills needed to achieve well-being.
In the 20 years of Dream a Dream’s experience with young people, we have seen that when they develop Life Skills, they are able to overcome the effects of adversity and re-engage with their communities. Life skills, defined as positive and adaptive behaviours, can help children overcome the consequences of growing up in adversity such as cognitive stunting and diminished levels of problem solving and abstract reasoning.
Our experience comes from running two direct intervention programmes - After School Life Skills Programme (ASLSP) and Career Connect Programme (CCP) - run as innovation labs. We test new approaches to life skills in our direct programmes and the insights are fed into our ecosystem interventions. The ASLSP engages over 5,000 students from grade 4-10 annually in 25 schools where facilitators conduct weekly after-school sessions using play and arts. The CCP operates from two centres in under-resourced neighbourhoods for 5,000 15-23 year olds annually to help develop the life skills required to make a healthy transition from adolescence to adulthood. Here our high-impact life skills approach is delivered through programmes in Computer Education, Spoken English, Communication Skills, Money Management and Workplace Readiness.
Recognising the need to replicate and transfer our life skills approach into the education system we developed the Teacher Development Programme (TDP), which is aimed at enabling educators to empower young people with life skills. The TDP develops teachers’ SEL and life skills and helps them build attitudes and capacities to facilitate a classroom environment where students from adversity can thrive, through our unique Arc of Transformation methodology. Since its launch in 2012 we have trained 10,000 teachers/educators impacting 250,000 students.
Integrating our approach within public education systems has meant the design and implementation of two unique socio-emotional learning based state-wide curricula (Happiness Curriculum) with the Delhi and Uttarakhand state governments. We are in different stages of developing life skills based interventions with three more states and are in the process of partnering with two more, with a potential to train 200,000 teachers and impact 4 million youth. Our strategic partnerships with state governments ensures that our approaches are deeply integrated within education models.