Friday, November 2

Repair Squad: Redeeming At-Risk Students

I have always had a heart for at-risk students. I have many friends who were at-risk students at school &, sadly, they were often misunderstood or falsely accused thanks to preconceived notions. The more that they were falsely labelled, the more that they stopped bothering to prove otherwise. In the end, they embraced & labelled themselves as they have been labelled by a harsh & restrictive education system. That's why so many of them became tough nuts to crack & they lashed out at people trying to 'help' them.

At my school, the students are so malleable & respectful of teachers. Still, there are students who have less than desirable behaviours. Instead of punishing them all the time or expelling them from school, I decided to put myself out there & experiment with a new way to reach out to them.

I'm no expert, but I think some fundamentals in human behaviour are:
- guys socialise via activity. we cant sit down & talk all day like women.
- guys like to feel important
- everybody wants to belong
- everybody needs to be proud of something

With all of the above in mind, I started the Repair Squad this year with a small group of hand-picked at-risk Form 5 students. I would personally lead them on simple repair projects in the hostels or around the school.
I wanted to give them an avenue to contribute positively to the school after so many years of vandalism or apathy. I also want to give them a sense of belonging at school & do not feel as detached from the school as they would after being punished again & again for so many years.
I also wanted to get to know them so I could influence them. Let them know that I care for them & they have the potential for great things.
I rewarded them with free t-shirts & public praise / recognition. You can see them happier & walking taller than before.

Although I did take part in a Kem Jati Diri this year, I do not believe that such one touch efforts can bring about any kind of significant change in a person. Expecting it to do so is a folly that many make because we'd rather be rubbing shoulders with the cream than digging dirt down in the ditches. Something gradual & ongoing would be even more effective. That's how I've designed the Repair Squad activities.

Here are some of our projects this year:

transporting fertiliser provided by the District Agriculture Dept for use in our hostel gardens
preparing & installing noticeboards for the new hostel blocks
planting new trees around the school
installing new colourful English language hostel room labels
recycling damaged beds into tables
managing pests / infestations
You can view all the pictures of the Repair Squad activities on my FB Page here.

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