A focus on prevention
Anna Senekal, manager of the Mangaung One-stop Centre, explains the prevention services that have been built into the Centre's programmes:
Rendering of diversion and developmental programmes to children in conflict with the law can be seen as prevention services - in order to prevent reoffending. The personnel at the Centre have also decided to target children who have not been involved in crime, in order to have a greater impact. Our prevention programme should be seen as a long-term process. The results have not yet been tested. Only after a period of one or two years can an evaluation be made to verify the impact. Here are more details about this prevention project.
Planning Of The Project
Before the One-stop Centre materialised, the National Department of Social Development allocated funds for projects with the theme "Getting Smart in Being Tough" (2001) and our committee decided to utilise these funds for a prevention project.
We decided to deal with this project in the following ways:
Presenting The Camp
Leaders from six schools in Bloemfontein, one youth group in Botshabelo and one school in Thaba 'Nchu were targeted, and a total of 33 children attended our camp. Topics such as self-esteem, leadership and relationships were covered, as well as drugs, alcohol abuse, crime, HIV/Aids and Satanism. The main aim was to make the participants aware of resources.
The leaders were also motivated to act as role-players in their schools, to start crime prevention clubs and to recruit more members for their clubs from their schools. A social development official and Nicro official were allocated to each school to follow up on the decisions made at the camp.
We realised, however, that too many issues had been put on the camp programme, which made it difficult to discuss them in great detail. The delegated staff were not able to visit the schools on a regular basis, which caused a drop in interest among the children. When we evaluated the progress at the end of 2001, only four clubs had been established and only one club had arranged any activities.
We realised that the children were not empowered enough to follow through on their own and that they needed more intensive and practical guidance. A follow-up camp was arranged, and was attended by children from the previous camp as well as new leaders from the same areas.
This camp was presented in a far more practical way. The children were given practical ideas and compiled action plans with specific objectives. A follow-up evaluation was organised six months later and it showed that significant progress had been made.
Six clubs were functioning and five clubs had already arranged one or other activity for the school. Only one club was not active. Significantly, a drop in the crime rate in one area where a club was established was recorded.
In devising new objectives, the children were inspired to:
It was envisaged that at the end of October 2002 these clubs would be visited and evaluated by the manager of the One-stop Child Justice Centre. If the club has met the objectives, the management of the club will be invited to a celebration event just before the school exams.
The following results have been noted:
We believe that information sessions to schools cannot really have an impact on the prevention of crime. The influence of the club members on their peers is of more significance.Therefore a combination of information plus the behaviour and role modelling of the club members is what is needed to try to challenge the crime problem.
The parents and their co-operation are also very important. Parents should know what the children are encouraged to do to enable them to take it further. Reports on the camp's seminars and activities will be sent to the parents. If possible, parents should also attend a seminar. They could either attend a seminar with the teachers or perhaps they could attend part of the celebration event with the children. It is a big challenge to get parents involved, and this will be addressed next year.
Indeed, the involvement of all the role-players in the programme is important. The children take the word of the magistrate and the prosecutor very seriously when crime is discussed, and also understand the police's role as a protector better once they make contact with them in another setting.
Presenting a prevention programme needs thorough planning and creative thinking. A prevention programme cannot be a one-off event like a camp or an awareness campaign. It should be seen as a process and constant follow-up is necessary. With our programme we are trying to give children what they need most - roots and wings.