As highlighted in our 2017 annual report, student engagement is one of the main goals that the Nyantende Foundation will be focusing on in the upcoming year. We believe that student life is so much more than what goes on in the classroom, and that education also encompasses community involvement and building life skills. Now that students are becoming more settled into their classes, student engagement can continue to be developed. In Canada, students have many opportunities to establish community leadership via the multitude of extracurricular activities that are available. In smaller Congolese communities, such as Nyantende, where education has only recently become more widely available, there are no such structured opportunities for students to develop their leadership, communication, and conflict-resolution skills.
Historically, studies have shown that engagement outside of the classroom leads to many benefits, including higher career aspirations, class attendance, and social standing among peers (Siliker & Quirk, 1997). For students in the DRC, these benefits could lead to greater opportunities and provide the foundation for a well-connected community. Furthermore, student grade point average has also been proven to be positively correlated to participation in community related activities (Siliker & Quirk, 1997). Having a higher grade point average can create better employment opportunities for students post-graduation, and also provide students with the chance to pursue post-secondary education.
The Nyantende Foundation’s founder, Spencer Goodwin, spoke with the director of the Congo Leadership Initiative (East region) to establish some of the problems surrounding student engagement and how to address them. The main problem was found to be a lack of balance in student life. Students are now receiving schooling and soon some will be enrolled in vocational training programs as well, but no life skills are being built while they are studying. To resolve this, as a new part of our Student Fellowship Program, a small group of 15 students will be formed, accompanied by a mentor from the community. These students will meet once a week to cultivate a sense of shared experience and support among them. The group mentor will be there to provide guidance, feedback and motivation to the students. Hopefully by providing this extracurricular outlet, students can become more active and engaged community participants and reap the benefits of expanding the education experience outside of the classroom.
Silliker, S., & Quirk, J. (1997). The effect of extracurricular activity participation on the academic performance of male and female high students.The School Counselor, 44, 288-293.