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Parents, teachers and others in the field of education are being targeted by Life Skills Education Limited, a new company which seeks to equip those responsible for child rearing with the skills needed to train them emotionally while promoting positive character development.

Anisa Wilson-Smith, CEO of Life Skills Education, is a career guidance counsellor whose track record in student development was recognised through the Spirit of Youth Development Award from the Jamaica Professional Youth Workers Association, in November 2022.

The books and programmes Wilson-Smith has produced are based on research that posits that social and emotional learning programmes can enhance academic achievement and attainment; and improve school attendance, engagement, and motivation to reduce negative student behaviour in schools and in the community such as bullying, violence, and juvenile crime.

The learning programme will also benefit the mental health of staff and students by lowering stress, anxiety, and depression; improving health outcomes by targeting a reduction in teenage pregnancies and drug abuse; and generally helping to improve the social and emotional skills of both students and staff, which should lead to better staff retention and higher morale.

Wilson-Smith, through Life Skills Education, is targeting a global personal development market size valued at US$41.81 billion in 2021 and which is anticipated to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5 per cent from 2022 to 2030.

To date, Jamaican schools have expressed more interest in the behaviour management, safety and security, and leadership programmes of Wilson-Smith’s company.

While her programmes are needed in the wider region, she says her focus is Jamaica first. Wilson-Smith is trained in guidance counselling and curriculum development, youth development, and programmes development.

In preparation for her offering Wilson-Smith also participated in youth development courses in Israel (Mashav Training Centre in Jerusalem) and represented Jamaica at the Commonwealth Youth Meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, in 2008. The specialist has also served as senior youth empowerment officer and senior programmes development specialist in the Ministry of Education.

She resigned from her job with the Ministry of Education in 2019 to pursue her passion for writing. Her aim was to focus on writing and marketing her books in the schools. However, within a few months of her resignation, the pandemic hit and schools were closed.

Wilson-Smith said that she “toughed” it out, using the time to continue to develop a wide range of products to benefit students, parents and teachers — despite facing serious financial difficulties.

Life Skills was incorporated in November 2022 with a St Ann’s Bay business address. Life Skills Education Limited provides life skills (social and emotional intelligence), educational programmes and textbooks to schools. The CEO asserts that programmes are policy -riven and built upon the Positive Youth Development Approach/Philosophy (National Youth Policy 2017-2030).

Wilson-Smith says, “We utilise the competency based education and training (CBET) for programme delivery. Our programmes support the recommendation in the 2021 Reform of Education Report to include social and emotional learning in the curriculum. As a nation we will not advance in STEM/STEAM if we do not have the SEL foundation strongly rooted!”

The venture currently employs a full-time administrator, four part-time life skills facilitators, and one part-time quality assurance officer. The CEO states that her persistence prevailed over her challenges and she is now ready to serve the children, youth, parents and teachers of this country.

She told Sunday Finance, “The motivation to start this company comes from a strong desire to help create a more peaceful and cohesive society that produces citizens who contribute positively to nation building.

“It was Nelson Mandela who said that education can change the world! Education can change Jamaica! As a nation, we are deeply disturbed by increases in indiscipline and violent behaviours, poor academic performance, teenage pregnancies, drug use, scamming, truancy, extortion, etc, among students. Life Skills Education was created to respond to these social issues affecting our schools and our society.”

Wilson-Smith says, “Our target market includes all students (K1-K13), parents, and teachers in the education system. We are especially excited about the I Parent Social and Emotional Learning Programme. Poor parenting practices are wreaking havoc on our nation!

“Our competitive advantage lies in our approach, which is based on the positive youth development approach. This is a strength-based approach that focuses on how we organise the services, opportunities and support systems for children and youth.”

The CEO shares how during the product development phase, “It was extremely difficult because I had no other source of income. However, by the grace of God, I persisted. The major challenge that I foresee going forward is the ability of parents to contribute to their children obtaining our social and emotional learning programmes and contributing time and financial resources to their own social and emotional learning.

“We plan to partner with the private sector and seek grant funding to make our programmes accessible to students, parents and teachers who are not able to afford the products.”

Total investment in the business for 2022 alone was $6 million in resources. Investors are silent partners. Wilson-Smith shared, “We are expecting to make a profit on this investment for the 2023/2024 school year.”

Going forward, Life Skills Education will be marketing its products across all educational regions in Jamaica while seeking partnerships with other private sectors organisations. It has already bid for and won contracts from government agencies involved in education but these programmes are awaiting financing.

The entrepreneur is seeking private sector partnership to get her proven programmes to parents.

She said, “The main message I want to get out there is that support and partnerships are needed to get the programmes in schools and to get parents to access the training…We need more such partnerships.”

Source Jamaica Observer:


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