The City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate will soon introduce baby simulators into schools across the province to tackle substance abuse. The pilot project will see 32 baby simulators distributed in 80 schools amongst 2400 learners in an attempt to tackle substance abuse in an interactive way. The method proved to be more effective than pumping information into young minds with schooling methods.
“Children do not like being lectured to. The aim is to get the message across to children in a friendlier manner. We wanted to get the children to speak to us,” says Mayoral Committee Member for Social Development and Early Childhood Development Suzette Little.
The project, which forms part of their Soft Skills Programme, is targeted towards primary school children as they found high school children to be too developed and affected by their surroundings. A test phase was rolled out earlier this year.
“We approached lower grades because we found that once children have reached high school certain things have already happened affecting their position in society and their pattern of thinking. We targeted grade 7 learners, some who had revealed that they had participated in sexual activities and drinking alcohol. We could pick this up from their reaction to the project.
“The baby simulator has all the needs of a real baby. It cries to be fed, burped, rocked and charged and cooes when its needs is met so it was interesting to see the reaction of the learners when the baby cried,” says Little.
A total of 210 parents and their children participated in the Strengthening Families Programme in Bonteheuwel, Lavender Hill, Elsies River, Bishop Lavis, Scottsville, Manenberg, Athlone and Wesbank. The programme is designed to improve the parent-child relationship through communication and other tools, thereby reducing the risk of disintegration of the family unit and exposure to associated social ills.
“The project assisted these learners to deal with pressing issues such as bullying, peer pressure and sex education,” says Little.
The Soft Skills Prevention Programme is but one of several interventions rolled out as part of the Directorate’s Substance Abuse Programme. The programme has been allocated a budget of R4,5 million for the 2015/16 financial year, while the simulators will be funded courtesy of an extra allotment in the Adjustments Budget, passed during the recent Council meeting. VOC (Nailah Cornelissen)