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October 22, 2015

Crime prevention and homework clubs

Reuel S. Amdur

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Crime Prevention Ottawa recently presented a panel on homework clubs at the Ottawa City Hall. The work of such clubs in high need areas was, said local United Way chief Michael Allen, a priority for his organization.

One of the speakers, Marisa Moher, who works at the Ottawa Child and Youth Initiative, which serves such clubs, described their role as providing training for skills development, space that is physically and emotionally safe and supportive, and positive relationships.  The relationships of which she spoke are across the board, including with parents.

Matthew Teghtmeyer, from Pinecrest Community Health Centre, described a program that is more than just homework.

Students are asked to come at least twice a week but may come more frequently.  The program includes mentorship, scholarship, food, recreation, and case management.  The program addresses personal problems as well as academic ones.  A typical session may consist of 15 or 20 minutes of study followed by basketball.  The program also reaches out to parents.

Carlington Community Health Centre’s program SWAG (Students Will All Graduate) works with young people referred in grade 8 for their program in 9 and 10.  Its program is similar in many ways to the one Teghtmeyer described, but they also have a summer program.

Homework clubs are an extremely valuable element.  The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board recognizes this fact and cooperates in various ways, providing space and some teacher time.  Teghtmeyer indicated that the graduation rate for the schools in the targeted areas his organization serves rose from 52% to 85%. 

What is the implication of the success of the programs? 

Let us consider at the same time the experience at Ottawa’s Severn Public School.  An Ottawa Kiwanis Club engaged in fundraising activities to help provide school supplies for every student.  They also funded upgrading the school library.  The principal also engaged in soliciting business support. 

So what do we make from all of this? 

We know what it takes for success.  However, success costs, especially where there are issues of poverty and families lacking knowledge of English or French. 

Schools lack the financial resources to insure that success.  Hence, there are hit-and-miss arrangements—a homework club here, a public-spirited service club there. 

School principals pushed to spend their days begging for donations.  Put simply, school boards lack the financial wherewithal to insure a good learning experience for all their pupils, especially those who live in poverty or in immigrant families.  Special needs children are an additional matter. 

If you think education is expensive, goes the old saw, try ignorance.  The cost to society of a child leaving school without learning is not slight.  The necessary expenditure should be at the front end.  It is much greater at the tail end.

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