A pair of young role models have taken it upon themselves to teach youngsters in Hangberg the importance of discipline and self-respect.
Last week Peter Michaels, 25, and Fidel Meter, known in the community for their work in sport and arts, noticed a number of children loitering on the streets of the Heights in the middle of the school day.
After questioning the children, they discovered that they were known truants, and frequently found themselves in trouble at school.
Further investigations led them to Sentinel Primary School, where they were told that the youngsters often swore at teachers and exhibited anti-social behaviour.
After discussing the matter with principal Claudene Overmeyer,
Mr Michaels, 25, gathered the youngsters together and explained the importance of standing up straight and respecting those addressing them. He also put them through a series of rigorous fitness exercises.
Given the respect he enjoys in the community, Mr Michaels’s words seemed to register with the children.
Inspired by what they had seen, Mr Michaels and Mr Meter began making contact with the children’s parents, asking them whether they had their consent to carry out a more formal programme for the youngsters.
“For most of these kids, there is no father figure at home, so there is no one to teach them about discipline and having and showing respect. Their mothers are working during the day, so there is no one around for them. These parents were glad to have them come to us,” Mr Michaels said.
The following day, Thursday March 1, the two men gathered the children at the Harvest Youth Centre. Here, they were made to learn to walk in a straight line, not to slouch and pay attention to the person talking to them.
“We were strict, but we also listened to their stories. You must remember that these are good kids, but there has never been a strong male figure around to tell them why it is important to respect others and themselves.
“Eventually, we started introducing them to the kind of art we do at the centre, and they were very interested. We then got them to draw pictures, hoping they would be inspired by what they had seen in the art books we showed them. Some of the pictures they handed us were brilliant, showing their talent.”
While it is early days for the “Drill Squad”, as Mr Michaels and Mr Meter have dubbed their programme, they believe they have seen enough to warrant a more formal programme for Hangberg’s more troubled children.
“Even if we can make a difference to one of these children, it’s a success. We have already seen the kids attending school again, and that’s a really good start.”
Ms Overmeyer said any initiative that could improve discipline among the youth would be welcomed “provided it was done in the right way”.