What’s in it for me?

For a lot of people, motivation is hard to come by. In order for them to do something, anything, there has to be a very obvious benefit or reward for them, or why bother? As a society we try to use rewards and punishments to keep our society working as we what it to, in order to have people behaving in a way we see as correct.

A school is a microcosm of this. There are clear rules to follow, and if you break those rules then you are punished in some way.This might be a severe talking to,  being kept behind at the end of  the lesson, writing lines or something else.  However if you behave in the correct way, doing your work, being polite or helpful, you get a reward. it may be a simple well done or acknowledgement from the teacher, a sticker, a merit or even a certificate! This works really in well in many schools, and generally speaking primary schools are much better at giving rewards than secondary schools. Sixth form colleges are worse than secondary schools. There are very few people studying their A-levels who will ever get merit for doing good work.

I am sure that teachers are not trying to be discouraging, but the rewards are starting to change as people mature. Once students start GCSE or A-level courses, then the reward they are working toward in a good grade, and surely they don’t need those silly little rewards for doing the simple things we all expect? the one problem with this is that the reward can seem so far away, a two year course feels like a life time to a 15 year old. It is easy to lose motivation, and forget the reward that you are working towards.

In a similar fashion the punishment can seem much further away as well. Whereas a primary school student may be scared stiff about breaking the rules, a sixth former may be more relaxed about it and not really fear the repercussions. The motivation to behave well, or to fit in with the rules can fade away, especially if you can see other people getting away with things.

Trying to keep young people motivated and engaged in education can be difficult, in a country such as the UK many young people will lose motivation and rely on help from the benefits system, taking advantage of the welfare state. The young people that Chennai Challenge works with in Chennai do not have the back up plan of unemployment benefits. Many can struggle with confidence, feeling that they will be destined to live a life of poverty or seek relief through drink and drugs. This is why we are so happy to work with Madras YMCA and Oasis India.

Both of these charities are working in Chennai all the time and helping young people to have the chance of success. The YMCA runs two schools offering a free education for over 1500 slum children. They house a small number of boys who don’t have anyone else to look after them properly. Oasis run a number of programs, working in schools and communities which have previously had poor reputations.

When a team from Chennai Challenge visits it can be a motivation for the young people and encouragement for the staff who are working there. The money we raise and spend goes towards trying to help people see the rewards they can get, and to help them achieve success. That is what we are trying to do, why not help us?

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