Basseterre, St. Kitts — The People Employment Programme (PEP) is being hailed, by one of its facilitators, as a vehicle that is training and professionalising the Federation’s workforce.
The programme according to facilitator Mr Gerard Williams, is a quasi-government, quasi-private initiative aimed at harnessing the productivity and the creativity of skills among the persons who are outside the realms of the government and private sector workforce.
Mr Gerard William, a graduate teacher facilitator with the People Employment Programme, is one of the three facilitators that are overseeing the progress of a workshop held for PEP Teaching Assistant Officers (TAOs) at the Beach Allen Primary School in Basseterre.
The other facilitators are Mrs Emileta Warner-Paul, Principal Beach Allen Primary School, and Mr Michael Blake, an Education Officer. PEP workers in all the schools are making use of the school holiday break to receive training in English, Maths, Ethics, School Safety, laws, as well as work skills.
“PEP is not new to the world,” observed Mr Williams. “There is a PEP equivalent in West Germany; they do not call it PEP. It means therefore that PEP in St. Kitts represents an opportunity to train and professionalise the workforce in an informal internship programme.
“My excitement about the process is that St. Kitts often as a very creative nation, creates economic solutions and social solutions that the whole Caribbean eventually copies. I would say that Kittitians are a brilliant and a simple people. We do not know how brilliant we are until we have solved the problem.”
According to Mr Williams, the workshop is catering for all categories of PEP workers in schools and are being exposed to professionalization and being upgraded in communication skills, which is a vision that was not there.
Mrs Michelle Jacobs, Students’ Support Officer attached to the Ministry of Education, explained that the workshop was supposed to cover only PEP workers that are in classrooms as teaching assistants, but the lunch servers and the librarians as well as the cleaners joined them.
Speaking of the PEP Teaching Assistant Officers, Mrs Jacobs said that some of them are genuinely interested in their work and are actually doing a very good job. They are now being given the chance to train because outside of St. Kitts a teaching assistant is a trained teacher.
“This is a training workshop because what they are doing they are looking at concepts that are taught at the school level, so that when they see them and the children are doing these things, they can assist them and ensure that they are doing it correctly,” noted Mrs Jacobs. “If they continue to use these concepts over and over, it will make it easy for them to actually pass it on to the children.”
On each day during the course of the workshop, the participants start with morning devotions and one of the leaders is a PEP teacher at AVEC, Mr Kevanique Stevens. A member of the Moravian Church, he is a musician and Youth Leader and preaches at times.
“PEP has opened me up to many options,” said Mr Stevens. “Going to AVEC to teach I have not only learnt to teach, I have also learnt office administration also where I am being versatile.
“I work in the office and I still work in the classroom and so I am learning more and more office work and I am also learning from the students as I teach. Being here on the workshop also has opened up my concept of teaching values so that I can break it down even further for the students.”
The workshop has 143 participants, according to PEP’s Assistant Training Coordinator, Mrs Diana Pemberton. She pointed out that the training was necessary as they were supposed to have been trained before they went to schools, but even with that shortfall, school principals are happy with the work of some of the teaching assistants.
“This training will be of assistance to the TAOs because many of them would not have had tertiary education,” observed Mrs Pemberton. “We are hoping that this would be some sort of foundation for them to reach that goal where they can actually go to teacher training school and have their teaching certification.”
Mrs Pemberton noted that there is a need for the teaching assistants in schools given the fact that there are cases where teachers will probably be on sick leave or maternity leave or even have left for further studies.
“The school principals are seeing the good work that the TAOs are doing,” noted Mrs Pemberton. “Some principals did indicate that there are a couple of teaching assistants that really stood out, that actually would handle out more of a workload than some of the teachers that they have on staff.
“PEP is achieving its goal of unearthing the potential in the young people of the nation that would have otherwise gone down to waste. Some of these people have the potential it is only that they never had the chance for it to be tapped, and so now we as PEP are tapping into it, and we can see it blossoming. PEP is indeed a blessing.”