When I was first hired by AfricAid, I was brimming with questions. How would I be able develop positive and supportive relationships with the Scholars I was supposed to mentor? How would I overcome all the different challenges that would emerge with my responsibilities? Along with all my other colleagues who started the Mentor position with me, we wondered how would we get to know the curriculum and where to start really making a difference in young girls’ lives. We all came from different professional backgrounds, had limited experience working with young people and, for most of us, this was our first job after university. We were now employed by AfricAid on one or two-year contracts and a very interesting and challenging time lay ahead.
We soon learned that the staff at AfricAid is ready to support, guide, and nurture us. Through a series of learning experiences, they make sure that we are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills that will make us effective Mentors and, at the end of the year, marketable employees on the job market.
This blog discusses the relevant and hands-on training we receive from AfricAid. The training is mostly practical, with some theoretical background exploration, and is run by in-house staff, the Mentors ourselves, or occasionally by external agencies. Though workplace learning is a continuous process, there are some training milestones. These include:
- Counseling and Orientation Program
- Mentoring Training
- Workplace Skills Training
- Peer Training and Mentoring
Counseling and Orientation Program
The very first thing that any newly hired AfricAid Mentor does is attend an introductory course that prepares us for interacting with young, sometimes vulnerable, girls. The Counseling Training session runs for one week and is externally organized by experts in the field. Armed with the basics, Mentors then participate in AfricAid’s Orientation Training Program for another week. The purpose is to get to know the goals, expectations and parameters that are a part of AfricAid’s organizational culture. We had overviews of the curriculum, learned classroom skills, and became familiar with our responsibilities. Quite a few of us had moved to Moshi for this employment, so we had opportunities to get to know each other, and to work out how we would work in teams.
“Orientation training is important because it gives us the opportunity to develop new skills we need throughout the year. It is essential knowledge that is very important for accomplishing our daily tasks.’’ Flora, Binti Shupavu Mentor
Mentoring Training occurs after our new Mentors have been on the job for a while and can call upon the experiences they have had in their classrooms. It involves building a deeper understanding of the mentor/mentee relationship. Some of the topics covered in this training are: stress management, different personality types, class management, problem solving, active listening, and feedback.
‘’Mentor training helps me a lot to understand things that I did not know before. It also helps me to understand the community, especially girls that I am mentoring by knowing how to talk with them whenever they have something to say. In the work place it helps me to deal with people who have different personalities.’’ Felister, Binti Shupavu Mentor
Workplace Skills Training
Workplace Skills Training is an ongoing activity that is provided to the Mentors so that they can cope effectively in the work environment. It is also intended to help Mentors develop skills that can be transferred to other work places. This training includes these areas: organizational culture and behavior, event management, blogs and report writing, running meetings, facilitation, public speaking, writing CVs and cover letters, and psychological elements behind the work that we do. A lot of work and discussion is centered on the topics for the Kisa Project and Binti Shupavu classes.
’’AfricAid helped me build skills to develop good relationships with adolescent girls. I already believed in the potential of girls, but through mentoring training, I learned how to motivate them do better and reach their dreams.” Agnes, Binti Shupavu Mentor
‘’As a long term Kisa Mentor, trainings are part and parcel of our lives and are very helpful. Personality and counseling training has been a tool for me to understand my girls during the mentoring sessions in schools.’’ Subira, Kisa Project Mentor
Peer Training and Mentoring
Peer Training commences mid-year when Mentors have had over six months experience running sessions at the schools. It is a developmental exercise where Mentors gain experience researching and writing their own half hour session on a predetermined topic and then presenting the information to their peers. Creativity is one of AfricAid’s core values and it is encouraged in this training. The staff as a group gives helpful feedback to the presenters on their presentation styles, as well as their ability to research and organize the content. Topics are diverse and yet useful for everyone’s understanding of the curriculum. Several of the photos in this blog feature Binti Shupavu Mentor Flora Meena teaching her fellow Mentors about “Inner Strength,” which is one of the actual curriculum lessons. Binti Shupavu Project Manager, Asimwe Suedi, reported that Flora “made her session very creative, with clear explanations and real examples. This will help us all to better engage with our Scholars.”
Other topics have included entrepreneurial subjects (budgeting, marketing) and societal and individual challenges (alcohol and drug abuse, appreciating and maximizing your own strengths).
‘’Peer training helps me get feedback on my performance, especially the way I am facilitating so that I can learn what I am doing best, what I should stop doing and what I should do to improve.” Verynice, Kisa Project Kisa Mentor
‘’Through training, we learn things that help us grow and understand. As a result, we become more creative and more efficient.‘’ Rachel, Binti Shupavu Mentor
During Peer Mentoring, Mentors visit one another’s class and observe their colleague while they are teaching. We discuss and share ways of becoming better at mentoring and we aim for monthly class observations.
‘’Peer mentoring helps me so much. I get to learn different techniques of mentoring from my fellows. I also get a chance to give feedback to my fellow Mentors on where they have to improve.’’ Agatha, Kisa Project Mentor
‘’Through a peer mentoring visit, I get to know new ways of engaging with Scholars, getting their attention and ways to keep the fire burning. Also, by receiving peer mentoring feedback, I learn how to improve my areas of weakness and become more creative and innovative.” Lightness, Kisa Project Mentor
We are proud to say that AfricAid is truly a learning organization on many levels. We use different methods to keep learning and this process is ongoing. These organized sessions of training are very useful, but we can’t forget how much we learn from our young Scholars in the classroom. When they start talking and sharing their views and stories, it is very enlightening indeed.