Subscribe to our Newsletter

click to dowload our latest edition



Yedid friendship circles bring guidance home to teens

Avatar photo



In a sometimes confusing teenagers’ world, there are few places one can express one’s feelings in a judgement-free zone. Often, it’s teens who best understand and can offer guidance to other teens.

For this reason, Grade 7 and Grade 11 pupils at Yeshiva College are being given the option of learning how to deal with bullying and how to build resilience, self-esteem, and other social skills to help themselves and others. This is all part of the Yedid (friend) initiative, implemented by The Ki, an organisation that offers affordable therapy to those who need it in the Johannesburg community.

The idea is to “create a programme that empowers the community’s kids”, said The Ki Director Tova Goldstein.

“There’s a need to improve mental health in the school system,” Goldstein said. “Through teenagers coming through our doors and using our services, we realised that we needed to offer our students more at school.” The organisation has launched the programme at Yeshiva, but plans to spread it out to all Jewish schools.

“Our goal with Yedid is to create a community of resilient teenagers who have self-worth and strong values, and to increase emotional intelligence across the Johannesburg Jewish community,” said Goldstein.

The Grade 11s who are accepted into the programme take part in a six-week basic counselling and personal-growth course. They are then put with a small group of Grade 7 pupils, with whom they meet every week for a session where they work through an information pack provided by The Ki, Goldstein said.

“In the training course, we teach Grade 11 pupils to get to know themselves, their values, what’s important to them, how they feel about bullying, their code of ethics, and what it looks like to stand up for their values and morals,” Goldstein said. “In terms of the basic counselling element, we tackle elements like empathy, listening skills, and being able to contain a situation. This is the foundation of social-work skills so that the pupils can have an open-ended conversation with somebody in a non-judgemental space in which they feel completely accepted.”

Similarly, Goldstein said the training for Grade 11s ensures that if a situation of bullying was to arise with a Grade 7, they would have the necessary skills to empower the Grade 7 or take it further.

“A lot of kids feel isolated. [Through this programme], they feel like they’re part of something. There’s a sense of safety and security. Kids thrive when they are safe and secure. To feel that someone has your back is a game changer. This is what Yedid is trying to do,” said Goldstein.

“We train the Grade 11s to speak to somebody like a school social worker, or to discuss with a Grade 7 what they could do in that situation, perhaps something they could do differently, or maybe even communicate with the Grade 11 about the bully in the other group and see if there’s something that can be done.”

Goldstein said there’s a hierarchy students are trained to follow. “If a Grade 11 pupil sees that there’s an issue, they would go to the school social worker or they would speak to one of the therapists with The Ki who can guide them on the best plan of action,” she said.

“There’s absolute confidentiality between the student and the Grade 11s with two exceptions, which is the same rule that operates in a therapeutic setting,” said Goldstein. “If the person is concerned that they are a danger to themselves or others, or if there’s abuse, then obviously it would have to be taken further. If that’s the case, the Grade 11 pupil has been trained on which protocols to follow”.

Each week’s session covers a different topic, anything from talking about bullying, to self-esteem issues, to general social skills. The Grade 11 students use prompt cards to ensure that the Grade 7s are guided in facilitating conversations and creating and sharing a space of friendship.

“For example, in the pack covering bullying, there can be a question like, ‘If you saw someone being bullied, what would you do?’ and ‘If you saw someone you don’t like being bullied, what would you do?’” said Goldstein. “It just creates conversation. That’s really what it’s about. For 10 minutes, you have a little interesting conversation and then off you go into class.”

The Grade 11 pupils have just completed their training, and their sessions with Grade 7s are going to start before the month is out.

In addition to the weekly sessions between pupils, there’s monthly supervision of the programme in which The Ki therapists and the school social worker meet Grade 11 pupils to mould the programme to suit the needs of the children.

“The point is that these Grade 7s know that there is this one Grade 11 kid that is their person,” said Goldstein. “So, if they’re struggling emotionally, if they’re feeling like they aren’t safe, if they feel like they’re being bullied, they know that they’ve got this older person in the school who has their back, no matter what.”

Youngsters can go to their big buddy because they are assured that “the Grade 11 pupil has the skills to deal with whatever the Grade 7 student is dealing with. And they’ve also got this little group of three or four or five boys or girls to become their circle.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *