Peer Educators Programme – Learn by doing!

What kind of NGO would secondary school students create if they had the chance? Plan International Ireland looks back an example in the making from 2015.

Who we are

Transition Year Students,  St Dominics College, Cabra, Dublin; Transition Year Students, Regina Mundi, Doughlas, Cork; 2nd Year Students, St Francis, Rochestown, Cork

What we did

The aim of this programme is to develop greater sense of solidarity amongst the students for young people around the world, and to encourage students to question and express their opinions and find ways to take action on issues in our own society, and globally.

Students explored universal issues of Human Rights, Child Rights, The Global Goals and Poverty, Gender Inequality, Advocacy and Youth Participation. Students then develop their own NGO around a topic that interests them and that they wish to learn more about. They are divided into three groups overseeing different functions within the NGO – Communications, Advocacy & Development Education.

Students learn how to:

  • organise and develop a learning/awareness raising session
  • make a topic interesting and engaging
  • help others to learn
  • learn through doing and ‘teaching’
  • learn about the workings of various NGO departments
  • learn about working in a team

The objectives of the programme are to:

  • Develop awareness, action and learning among the students about development issues
  • Students identify and become ‘educators’ of issues of importance to them

How we did it

The programme was broken up into the following stages:

  • Understand It: Participants will gain a deeper understanding about Human Rights, Child Rights, Global Goals, Poverty, Gender Inequality and Advocacy. This stage usually takes 4 weeks.
  • Plan It: Participants will then pick a development topic that interests them and develop an NGO around that topic. Participants will be divided into groups three groups: 1) Communications – come up with a name, logo and mission for the NGO, decide how they are going to create awareness around their campaign. 2) Advocacy: get all the facts, develop an advocacy plan with an action element, and identify stakeholders that they can contact to showcase their NGO to. 3) Development Education: Develop and facilitate workshops for peers so that they understand the purpose and importance of the NGO. This stage usually takes 3-4 weeks.
  • Do It: Organise a day that stakeholders can be invited, workshops can be facilitated and campaign actions be carried out. Following this the class will need to evaluate the entire process. This stage can be completed in 1-2 weeks

Once the workshops were completed student discussed the many issues and ideas they encountered and decided, by group consensus, on the topic the class would like to research further. Following this, students:

  • were divided into their groups and each was given their detailed function within the NGO.
  • completed work in relation to their function and made a presentations to the class, teacher and facilitator. 
  • fed back to each group determining if the work completed was relevant to the NGO and that all groups work linked together so that they were communicating the same message.

Across the three schools all Development Education groups decided to facilitate workshops to their peers.

The Communications groups made displays and posters that were put up across the school.

Advocacy groups either wrote a thematic song, provided practical solutions and list of contacts for further information and another group produced a video. One group invited guest speakers and displayed their posters in the local library.

Did we succeed

Feedback from students illustrated that they enjoyed the entire programme. They liked the active methodologies such as walking debates, working in groups on case studies and watching Plan International Ireland videos that brought the reality of global issues into the classroom.

In particular students enjoyed developing their NGO and gained an insight on how one functions. In addition they liked researching and learning more about their topic and planning to facilitate to their peers.

The programme was successful because the students had ownership of the NGO and were motivated to see the programme through because they were passionate about their chosen topic and showcasing all their research and learning to peers.

The main challenge with the programme was that it cannot be run over an 8-10 week consecutive period due to school term timetables or other class commitments. In this instance students can tend to lose focus and not keep up to date with the work that needs to be completed. In contrast students did feel they did not have enough time to prepare and practice.