SLOVAKIA: Salesian Program Provides Tutoring, Peer Support to Help Poor Youth Achieve
(MissionNewswire) Slovakia is a landlocked country within central Europe with a population of just over five million. The country joined the European Union in 2004 and is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south.
According to the World Bank, Slovakia’s primarily manufacturing-centered economy, focused on exports, has allowed the country to weather the post-2008 global economic crisis better than most in the European Union. The World Bank also notes that while most families living in the country are generally prosperous, close to 11 percent are living below the poverty line and for many of those, living conditions worsened significantly in the years following the global economic crisis. The country has an unemployment rate of just over 13 percent and one third of all those unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 24.
Salesians in Slovakia are working to educate youth while providing support for their families at Center Mamateyoya in the city of Bratislava in the western part of the country. Here, Salesians aim to develop students’ problem solving and team working skills while offering educational supports such as after-school tutoring.
The Center is run by more than 70 volunteers from local high schools and the local university in addition to the Salesian staff. Programs are designed for three age groups, children under the age of 16, youth 16 to 27 years old and families. Recreational activities are also available through the Center such as football, basketball, hockey, art, music, theater, photography and other activities that help youth foster both team building and individual skills.
“Students learn in a variety of ways,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Through team sports and other social activities, students can use their free-time productively while learning to rely on others, make friends and safely explore interests outside of school.”
Weekly peer groups are offered and serve as a place where youth can come to discuss their problems, ask questions about troubling issues, receive advice and support from others and discuss current topics of interest. The aim of the group is to provide social support while encouraging personal growth for the young people involved. Tutoring is also offered each week, staffed by both volunteers and professional teachers who provide the skills and resources necessary to improve student’s grades.
A parent center is available three days a week and provides programs that encourage parents in their own educational pursuits as well as supporting them in developing their parenting skills. Topics of discussion have ranged from effective parenting skills, rewards vs. punishments and coping with a child’s anger. Also available to parents of preschool aged children is a playground where the young children can engage in crafts, dancing, singing and puppet theatre, daily.
“Parent support is very important for the families we serve,” adds Fr. Hyde. “It helps parents to focus on their own individual needs which could be advancing their own education to help them better support their families in the future or receiving support and advice from other parents to help tackle parenting issues almost all parents face.”
World Bank – Slovakia