Students participated in a game of American football as part of a series of college events to deter them from violent crime.
Around 250 students at the College of Haringey Enfield and North East London (CONEL) have participated in anti-crime related activities this academic year.
In the year prior to the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, the number of killings in London increased by nearly a quarter from 115 to 142 and fatal stabbings rose by 28 per cent.
Twelve young people have been fatally stabbed in the capital this year including two in Haringey.
The 12-week Exodus programme run by coaching and development consultancy UpskillU mentored students on knife crime, gangs, county lines and criminal exploitation followed by a game of NFL Flag to improve physical wellbeing.
NFL Flag is a version of American football where instead of tackling players the defensive team must remove a flag from an opposing player carrying the ball.
Students later joined an online chat with anti-knife crime campaigner Yvonne Lawson, the mother of Godwin Lawson, who was stabbed to death in Hackney in March 2010.
Applied Science course student Adanwali Jamal, 20, from Hackney, said: ““I felt very sad hearing Yvonne Lawson tell her story about how Godwin had a good future and how she lost him to knife crime.
“Last year I had an accident on my bike and went to hospital and there was a young man crying because he had got in a fight and been stabbed in the leg.
“There is too much knife crime in London. If someone gets too close to you, you’re always scared they might be carrying a knife. It’s good that the college is teaching us how to be safe.”
Students also participated in six-week workshops run by mentoring charity Manhood Academy Global focusing on self-awareness, peer pressure, crime and education.
Other sessions included a four-week programme run by CONEL looking at the realities of gang crime and legal implications of carrying a knife, and the Aspire programme run by The Safety Box on changing negative behaviour and attitudes.
The activities were supported by the Young Londoners Fund, an initiative run by the Mayor of London to help children and young people potentially at risk of getting into crime.
Anthony Robinson, Head of Learner Experience and Industry Placements at CONEL, said: “Knife and gang-related crime has hugely increased in London over the past decade, and resulted in the exploitation, injury and death of many vulnerable young people.
“By offering these activities and mentoring programmes, with the support of the Young Londoners Fund, the college is providing the help, advice and guidance they need to make the right life choices and discourage them from getting involved in crime.”
Find out more about enrichment, support and student life at CONEL.
Students boosted their fitness and skills when they took part in an exciting day of mountain biking, treetop pursuits and outdoor challenges with the Royal Navy.
Around 35 students from the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) joined in the activities at Swinley Bike Hub and Go Ape in Swinley Forest near Bracknell, Berkshire.
They were led by Lieutenant Commander Russ Haines and Warrant Officers Philip Bolton and Janice Scott from the Royal Navy, and Brendan Berry, CONEL’s Curriculum Manager for Public Services.
The students from the college’s Public Services, Sport and Key Stage 4 courses cycled through the forest, climbed trees, swung through woods, crossed rope bridges and whizzed down zip wires.
The Royal Navy officers also ran several group challenges including finding a casualty in the forest and taking them to a designated location where they could be rescued.
Zee Coskun, 19, from Hackney, who has aspirations to join the Metropolitan Police, said: “The mountain biking was great, and it felt good to be out and around people again. It really put us to the test, but we kept on going and motivated each other and I’m glad I did it.
“The team building and leadership exercises with the Royal Navy gave me more confidence in my communication and motivational skills. I learnt a lot, and I am sure other students have as well.”
Justice Bonsu, 21, from Greenwich, who hopes to join the Armed Forces, said: “It was an amazing experience and has given me so much more confidence. It was my first time leading a small team. It improved my communication and problem-solving skills.
“The ziplining was incredible. I was terrified the first time I went down it, but I am very proud that I did it. I couldn’t have done something like that a few years ago.”
COVID-19 has meant some activities had to be cancelled over the past year or had to take place on college sites instead, such as public order training with the Metropolitan Police.
Lt Cdr Haines was impressed with how well the college had worked with the Royal Navy to provide activities for students in a COVID-safe environment.
He said: “It’s been great working with an organisation that shares the Royal Navy’s passion for developing others and helping a diverse range of young people to learn fundamental life skills such as teamwork, leadership and communication that will help them in defining their future careers.”
Brendan Berry, Curriculum Manager for Public Services, said: “During the second lockdown it was clear that to rebuild the morale and mental health in our students we had to re-engage them in practical activity in a COVID-safe environment.
“To get the students back out into the great outdoors has been our key driver since March and working with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines we looked at the best way to create a range of activities that would re-energise them academically and holistically.
“Swinley Forest was perfect for providing outstanding days for our students after the year of all years. To see our students engaged in practical activity and growing their teamwork, leadership and individual practical skills has been fantastic.”
This activity was funded by the Young Londoners Fund.
A former business student who impressed on a work experience placement with BP while at college has landed a job with the oil and gas giant.
Elizabeth Daka, 22, undertook a six-week internship with the company while studying a Business Level 3 Extended Diploma at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) in 2016.
She was supervised on placement by Christina O’Donovan-Rossa, BP’s then Head of HR Global Functions – Integrated Supply and Trading, and Sue McKenzie, then PA to the company’s UK HR Director, as part of the Career Ready programme.
After successfully passing her Business diploma, Elizabeth went on to graduate with a degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Hertfordshire.
She kept in touch with staff at BP while at university and has now landed a job as a Trading Operations Co-ordinator after being directly approached by the company.
Elizabeth, from Enfield, said: “I remember receiving a call asking if I would be interested in this role as they thought I would be a suitable candidate. I went for an interview and after a few weeks they called to say I had been offered the role. I was so excited.”
In her new job Elizabeth is responsible for all aspects of oil and gas trading across Europe including processing invoices, shipping contracts and product transportation.
She said: “I was looking to pursue a career in HR for a long time, but one thing I’ve learnt is that you actually never know where your career will go. You have to be open to exploring different options because so many skills are transferable. You never know where they will take you.”
Career Ready is a charity that works with educators and employers to help prepare young people for work. While on the programme Elizabeth organised a careers event at CONEL and invited BP staff to talk about their roles.
She said: “Career Ready really prepared me for working in the corporate world. My mentors helped me through my time at BP and both motivated me in different ways. I went from being shy and timid to being more confident and striving for greater things for myself.
“As long as you have a positive mindset and work hard, the sky’s the limit.”
Elizabeth also praised the help and support she received from her tutors at CONEL, that helped her to gain her diploma and the skills and knowledge needed for her career.
Betty Benjamin, Lecturer in Business at CONEL, said: “Through her studies at college and on the Career Ready programme, Elizabeth discovered her skills and career path. We are glad to have made such an impact on her life.”
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Rebecca Mbele, from Tottenham, tells how she fled war-torn Congo to start a new life in the UK and secured her lifelong dream of working with children.
Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rebecca Mbele would often care for her younger siblings and children of relatives and family friends at the age of 10.
Despite a rich wealth of minerals and natural resources, DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world following years of civil and international war from 1996-97 and 1998-2003. The conflicts and their aftermath have caused millions of fatalities amid continued unrest.
Rebecca lived with her parents, older sister and three younger brothers in the capital Kinshasa, the largest city in Africa with a population of 15 million. She is proud of her Congolese roots and recalled a happy childhood and enjoyed looking after her younger siblings and other children when they came to visit. Together they would play games, make dolls, pretend to cook, draw pictures and sing.
“The men would watch TV and discuss the news and politics and the women would be in the kitchen, and I would sit in a corner and play with the children. I felt honoured that their parents trusted me to look after their little ones,” said Rebecca, 44, who now lives in Tottenham.
According to Unicef, 7 million children in the DRC aged 5 to 17 are not in school due to the cost – despite the country’s government decreeing primary education should be free – and the vast majority of the country’s children have no pre-school education.
“There is an African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child,” said Rebecca.
“There aren’t many places your parents can leave you when they go to work, so you would stay with a relative, neighbour or family friend in the community. For your children to go to a nursery, you had to be earning a lot of money. It was not an option for us.”
Rebecca left school in 1995 aged 18 after passing the Examen d’Etat, the Congolese equivalent of the French baccalauréat, and began studying economics at Université William Booth in Kinshasa.
Civil war broke out in DRC the following year with the country in political turmoil and economic decline, which spilled over into Uganda and Sudan. The conflict escalated when Rwanda invaded DRC and was later joined by more states including Uganda, Burundi, Angola and Eritrea.
Despite only lasting seven months, the war caused widespread destruction with hundreds of thousands of people killed or displaced. Rebecca’s family were forced to move further out of Kinshasa and she had no choice but to give up her studies.
She said: “The lifestyle we had was gone. I could feel it in the house. The country was getting worse and worse and there were fewer jobs. If you didn’t know people, you didn’t get work. I was crying on my bed every single night thinking, what is this life?”
During her studies Rebecca had met and got engaged to another student. He was also a political activist wanted by the Congolese government and fled the country in 1996.
“For a whole year there was no communication. No one heard from him or knew where he was. I was sad, confused and deeply worried. I thought it was finished and he was gone,” she said.
His aunt in the UK later wrote to tell his family he had arrived as a refugee and was safe.
The first war came to an end when President Mobutu was overthrown but political tensions and hostility continued under rebel leader Laurent-Desiré Kabilia, leading to the second conflict that would last five years. Fearing for her own safety, Rebecca flew to the UK to be with her fiancé.
They set up home in Camden and arranged a traditional Congolese wedding and would go on to have four children. Attending baby clubs and nurseries with her own children further sparked her interest in an education career.
She said: “I’m so glad they went. It helped them to communicate with other children, how to play and share toys. At that age, it is so important for their development. I would see how the staff set things up and would get down to the children’s level to speak to them. It was amazing to see, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do.”
Rebecca enrolled on an Early Years Practitioner Level 2 Diploma at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) and went on to study Supporting Teaching and Learning Level 3 Certificate. She received an Excellence Award from CONEL in 2018.
She is now working for N Family Club, an early years education provider with nurseries across London and the South East, having started her career at Pembury House Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Haringey where she undertook a placement while at college.
Rebecca said: “CONEL gave me the chance to truly believe in myself and prepare for my dream career. I was blessed to have had the most amazing, kind and caring teachers. I am so proud and amazed when I look at what I have achieved. I now know where I am and where I am going. I am happy and have a purpose in my life, and nothing can stop me.”
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Construction students have undertaken additional health and safety training with energy company ENGIE after being unable to attend work placements because of the pandemic.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, there were 40 work-related deaths in the construction industry in 2019-20 and each year there are 61,000 injuries.
ENGIE provided free online modules to further develop skills and knowledge of plumbing and electrical students at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).
COVID restrictions across the UK meant many companies were not able to provide the work experience to students that normally forms a valuable part of their studies.
The training covered health and safety, fire safety, manual handling, asbestos awareness, legionella, risk assessments, working at height, stress awareness and young people at work.
Plumbing student Niah Abrams, 17, from Enfield, said: “I wasn’t too disappointed when we were told that we wouldn’t be able to do a placement because of the pandemic, because I had got some experience outside of college shadowing a plumber.
“For some of those on the course who might not have had that opportunity it was better than not being able to do anything at all. It was good that the college was able to make this happen and help us in this way.
“It taught us more about what happens in the real world, including a whole section on asbestos and legionnaire’s disease. It has given me more knowledge and extra insight if I come across anything like this, so I will know what to do.
“I also learnt that young people are more at risk at work because they because they have more strength and energy, and they might wear themselves out and not take a break to try and impress their employer.”
ENGIE also created a virtual video tour for students of a construction site in Green Lanes, Haringey, where it is working in partnership Clarion Housing Group to build 133 new homes along with an NHS facility and energy centre to power the development.
Karen Field, Social Value Manager for ENGIE, said: “Due to COVID-19 restrictions work placements were unfortunately not possible, so ENGIE made a site tour film with the help of our site team and offered virtual construction-based courses, which the students could do as part of their course.
“These have proved to be really successful with the students and enabled them to increase their knowledge on a variety of subjects linked to the courses they are taking.”
CONEL chose a selection of modules created by ENGIE for new employees of the company that were related to the students’ studies, with each module assessed through a test.
Latoya Patrick-Johns, Employer Engagement and Placement Coordinator for Construction, said: “Work placements give students the opportunity to gain real-life work skills that increases their knowledge and helps them to make informed career choices.
“These modules were designed by ENGIE for its new employees as part of their induction with the company, and were a great alternative to placements during the pandemic..
“Our students were able to get this training for free, which will give them the advantage of already having these skills and certificates to enhance their CVs and employability.
“We are very grateful to ENGIE for providing this opportunity to our students.”
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