Adolescent Development Programme

Country Profile: Trinidad and Tobago


1,300,000 (2007 estimate)

Official Language

English (Creole English widely used)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):

12.4% (1990-2004)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP

3.9 (1999)

Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)

86.4% (2006)

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

99% (1995-2004)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)
  • Total: 98%
  • Male: 99%
  • Female: 98%

Programme Overview

Programme TitleAdolescent Development Programme (ADP)
Implementing OrganizationService Volunteered for All (SERVOL)
Language of InstructionEnglish including Creole English
Programme PartnersGovernment of Trinidad and Tobago (through the Ministry of Education, MoE and Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs); Bernard Van Leer Foundation (Holland); Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); MISEREOR (Germany); HELVETAS (Switzerland); • UNICEF and UNESCO; Local business community (e.g. National Petroleum Company; the Natural Gas Company; Neal and Massy and several leading insurance companies and banks)
Date of Inception1981 –

Context and Background

Service Volunteered for All (SERVOL) is a community development, social empowerment and educational NGO that emerged during the social upheavals of the 1970’s in Trinidad and Tobago. The entrenched structural socio-economic inequalities and the resultant deplorable living conditions and high unemployment and poverty rates among the poor majority (which had partly precipitated the social upheavals of the 1970s) prompted Fr. Gerard Pantin, a Roman Catholic priest and Mr. Wes Hall, a Barbadian cricketer, to establish SERVOL. Since then, SERVOL has been implementing intergenerational, family and community-based life and vocational skills training, enterprise development, psychosocial counselling, educational and empowerment projects in disadvantaged and marginalised urban and rural communities. The major aims of SERVOL then and now are to:

Four decades after its establishment, SERVOL continues to implement a number of community-based development and educational projects primarily because the socio-economic problems that led to its formation, such as poverty, sharp socio-economic inequalities, youth criminality or gang violence and drug abuse as well as the disintegration of family structures, high illiteracy rates among and lack of livelihood and educational opportunities for the poor majority, remain prevalent in the country today. For instance, recent studies by the University of the West Indies (UWI, 1995), Griffith (2002) and Pacheco (2004) revealed that over 20% of the adult population (aged 15 and above) are illiterate and about 40% of the youth population (aged 15 to 24 years) are functionally illiterate. Similarly, youth unemployment rates are alarmingly high (47%).

High rates of illiteracy and unemployment among the poor majority are partly ascribed to lack of educational opportunities due to poverty, lack of development in their communities and shortages of professional teachers. In light of this and in order to address the socio-economic problems faced by the underprivileged members of society, SERVOL is currently implementing five inter-related and mutually reinforcing family and community-based developmental and educational projects:

  1. Early Childhood Programme (see:
  2. Parent Outreach Programme (see
  3. Junior Life Centre Programmes (see:
  4. Special Education Programme (see:
  5. Adolescent Development Programme (see:

In order to fully comprehend SERVOL’s role in addressing the aforesaid social problems among the poor and, in particular, in combating the scourge of youth illiteracy and unemployment in the country, this report analyses the Adolescent Development Programme (ADP) in greater detail.

The Adolescent Development Programme (ADP)

The Adolescent Development Programme (ADP) was officially launched in 1981 by SERVOL and is currently being implemented across the entire country. In order to facilitate the effective implementation of the programme, SREVOL has established forty (40) Life or Adolescent Development Centres (L/ADCs) cross the country. The L/ADCs serve as the community-based learning and training institutions. The ADP is intended to assist and train out-of-school and unemployed young people (aged 15-19 years) from underprivileged backgrounds in order to equip them with socio-economic (marketable) skills necessary for securing gainful formal or informal employment. The programme is divided into two key components or phases:

The Pre-Vocational Skills Training Programme (PVSTP)

The PVSTP is an intensive three months psychosocial training programme that is primarily intended to prepare adolescents psychologically for training in a vocational or technical trade of their choice. Most importantly, the PVSTP endeavours to address adolescents’ social and psychological (psychosocial) needs and problems and thus to “… transform hostile, hope-drained adolescents with battered egos into confident, [responsible] young adults” with positive future perspectives through training in:

The institutionalisation of the PVSTP was necessitated by the realisation that a traditional approach to vocational skills training which de-emphasised psychosocial training or counselling had failed to achieve the envisaged results as most trainees either dropped-out of the programme or simply failed to profitably utilise their acquired vocational skills after graduating from the programme, with some opting to rejoin street gangs. As such, SERVOL now obliges all learners / participants to participate in the PVSTP before enrolling into the adolescent vocational skills training programme.

Adolescent Vocational Skills Training Programme (AVSTP)

Upon graduating from the PVSTP, programme participants can also enrol into the Adolescent Vocational Skills Training Programme (AVSTP) under which they train in a vocation or trade of their choice for an average of eight to twelve months. Currently, SERVOL provides learners with integrated literacy and skills training opportunities in a number of trades including building and construction; plumbing; nursing; welding; carpentry; motor and electrical mechanics; food processing and catering; printing; entrepreneurship and information technology. Apart from providing in-house training to participants, SERVOL has also established working relationships with several business organisations and institutions which, through an apprenticeship (placement or mentorship) scheme, provides learners with practical or on-the-job training for about four to six months. In addition to enabling learners to gain practical working experience in their trade or vocation, the apprenticeship scheme has also been an important job-creation mechanism as most companies and institutions often re-hire the apprentices as permanent employees after graduating from the programme. SERVOL has also established the Fund Aid which provides loans to graduates who fail to find formal employment in order to enable them to set up their own income generation projects or small businesses in the vocations they will have trained in. Accordingly, SERVOL also provides training services in basic entrepreneurship (including business management, book-keeping, marketing to enable graduates to run their small businesses more effectively and profitably.

Aims and Objectives

The Adolescent Development Programme (ADP) endeavours to:

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methods

The Role of the Community

One of SERVOL’s basic guiding principle and strategy is to mobilise and engage local members of society as the principal agents of community development activities and initiatives. This entails actively involving the entire community – through their elected representatives, the Community Board of Education (CBE) – in project conceptualisation, planning, implementation and monitoring. These guiding principles also regulate the implementation of the ADP and as such, the community – through the local CBE – is responsible for establishing and managing the Life or Adolescent Development Centres. The CBE is also the official employer of all SERVOL literacy teachers and vocational skills instructors and is therefore responsible for monitoring their professional performance and conduct as well as for paying their salaries through funds transferred monthly by SERVOL. The CBE is also responsible for collecting a small fee from programme participants which they use to cover part of the programme costs including Centre-administration costs and teachers and instructors’ salaries. In addition, the CBEs are also responsible for the enrolment of participants into the programme and for identifying and selecting young people to be trained as literacy teachers and vocational skills instructors by SERVOL.

Recruitment and Training of Teachers and Instructors

Teachers and instructors play a fundamental role in the implementation of SERVOL’s programmes. It is through their work that SERVOL’s philosophy and principles are put into practice. A great ability to listen and care is the fundamental prerequisite to perform this job. Teachers are indeed selected not only on the basis of their academic qualifications, but also for their ability to love and understand their students. From the very first day of the three-month training programme, they learn to be in contact with adolescents and to listen to them. During the first three weeks, they receive professional instruction in adolescent psychology and also attend ADP classes and see how teenagers express emotions and feelings; they are not allowed to intervene, but they just have to watch and listen to. As a second step, teachers develop communication, counselling and teaching skills, they learn about adolescents’ psychology, wishes and fears. They are also instructed in SERVOL’s approach and philosophy, in how to manage a life centre and how to make ADP a community based-project. As a last step, instructors actively participate in classes, together with an experienced teacher. SERVOL instructors earn US$241 a month and are hired on a full time basis. Several of them are SERVOL graduates who have returned to the organization after experience in the workplace.

Among ADP instructors, field officers are selected on the basis of their effectiveness and ability. Their job consists in many different tasks: they visit trainees in the field and monitor their work; they organize workshops for teachers and meetings with centre coordinators; they attend seminars one day a month on different subjects concerning adolescents’ psychology, and have to submit every week reports underlining the progresses made and the activities carried out. Moreover, in case of troublesome issues, like too low teachers’ salaries and internal problems, they are also expected to deal with local boards of education.

Enrolment of Learners

The CBE, which is responsible for recruiting programme participants, employs various strategies to encourage youth to participate in the ADP. These include:

Before being admitted into the Adolescent Development Programme, every adolescent is interviewed and assessed in reading, writing and oral competences as well as for psychological well-being. This process is intended to assess the form and nature of assistance that individual learners will require as well as to place them in appropriate learning-groups.


The annual budget for the implementation of SERVOL programmes amounts to about TT$9 million. Half of this money comes from the state (through the Ministry of Education) and the other half is raised through donations from several local and international institutions (see above) as well as through the income generating projects / activities carried out at the Life Centres, adolescent training department and through the ADP’s apprenticeship scheme. With regards to the later, companies who engage apprentices pay an agreed amount to SERVOL for such services and SERVOL pays two-thirds of it directly to the trainees. Furthermore, ADP participants also pay a token fee which also helps to sustain the programme.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation are very important aspects of the ADP, they characterize every phase of the programme and concern both adolescents, its staff and external partners. As regards students, interviews are held both at the beginning and at the end of the course, when they are tested for literacy and eventually assigned to specific remedial classes. A third of SERVOL’s ADP trainees take at that point literacy courses ranging from six to twelve hours a week.

ADP participants’ learning progress is also monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis. Thus, apart from the in-house learner progress evaluation undertaken by SERVOL staff, companies who recruit apprentices are also obliged to compile learners’ progress reports. Furthermore, during their field attachment period, apprentices are also visited by SRERVOL field officers / instructors who monitor and evaluate their overall performance and conduct within a working environment. At the end of their training course, all ADP participants are also obliged to sit for a national examination in order to obtain a national trade achievement certificate. In addition, SERVOL has, over the years, also employed several external professionals and / or institutes to evaluate the impact (effectiveness) or lack thereof of its programmes as well as to canvass for professional advice and suggestions. The latest external evaluation by the Bernard van Leer Foundation was under-taken in 2002. Using data collected from these processes, SERRVOL compiles annual reports which detail the impact, challenges and way forward of its programmes.


The ADP has had a significant over the lives of many adolescents, their families and communities. Currently, SRERVOL enrols and trains about 3 000 adolescents per year under the ADP, 10 percent of whom return to complete secondary education and 75 percent find a job, usually before their apprenticeship period is even over. Over the past two decades, SERVOL has trained over 60 000 adolescents under the ADP as well as over 600 teachers and instructors from Trinidad and Tobago, Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Bahamas, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, Nevis, Panama, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and The Turks and Caicos Islands. This has led to the programme being replicated in these countries.

Furthermore, SERVOL’s integrated approach to vocational skills training has positive effects on graduates’ personal (psychological) development and, as a result, overall professional conduct and deportment. For instance, a number of evaluation reports indicate that most companies have a positive preference for SREVOL graduates because they are more disciplined and have a positive work ethic and attitude as exemplified by their established a reputation as honest, punctual and hardworking employees. Equally important, it has been observed that a high proportion of ADP programme participants are less likely to enter into early marriages and they also tend to have positive parenting skills once they establish a family.

The ADP has also empowered communities to take a proactive role in facilitating and promoting local development initiatives primarily because, as noted above, it is the communities through their CBEs which decide the training programmes they require for their children. Hence, because of its effective approach to promoting community, social empowerment through the provision of quality education and skills training to adolescents, SERVOL has received several international accolades over the years. For instance, in 1994, UNESCO selected SERVOL as one of the twenty best-case projects in the world and published a booklet on the organization entitled "On the Right Track". It was also awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1994 by the Right Livelihood Foundation of Sweden.

Lessons Learned

These include:


After four decades of supporting local communities across the entire country, it is therefore self-evident that SERVOL’s programmes are sustainable. The sustainability of SERVOL’s programmes – including the ADP – is due to a number of factors as well as strategic planning. Key to this is the active involvement of the communities which, as noted above, are now central to project planning and implementation. Further, SERVOL receives substantial financial and technical support from the state and various local and international institutions. In addition, ADP participants are also obliged to pay a token participation fee, an aspect which not only raises more income but also encourages parents and indeed adolescents themselves to be responsible for their development.


  1. Quamina-Aiyejina, Lynda: 2000. Education for All in Caribbean: Assessment 2000 Monograph Series, UNESCO.
  3. Sister Montrichard, R. The story of Servol: education for the community by the community, UN Chronicle, March-May, 2004.
  4. Cohen, R. N. Shaping Tomorrow: The Servol Programmes in Trinidad and Tobago.
  5. Baptiste-Simmons, L (2002): Innovations in Youth and Adult Education Programmes in Trinidad and Tobago. The SERVOL Experience for the Regional Conference of CREFAL, Mexico, September 11-13, 2002
  6. Baptiste-Simmons, L (2003): Trinidad and Tobago: Innovations in Adult and Youth Education. The Servol Programme in: UNESCO Regional Office (OREALC) Santiago de Chile; UIE Hamburg (2003): Towards a State of the Art of Adult and Youth Education in Latin America and the Caribbean, Regional Latin American Report for the CONFINTEA Mid- Term Review Conference, Bankok , pp. 201 - 205
  7. Griffith, J (2002): To handle life’s challenges. A tracer study of Servol’s Adolescent Development Programme in Trinidad. Bernard van Leer Foundation
  8. Pacheco, M.: Literacy and Livelihoods for Youth at Risk-The Servol Experience. In: Commonwealth of Learning, 2004, pp.27-33
  9. UNESCO (1995): On The Right Track. Servol’s early childhood and adolescent development programmes in Trinidad and Tobago., UNESCO, Paris
  10. Mahabir, D (1993): Servol pre-school and adolescent training programmes in Trinidad and Tobago in: IIEP: Increasing and improving the quality of basic education, Monograph No. 10, UNESCO, Paris


Martin Pacheco
Executive Director, SERVOL
91 Frederick Street
Port of Spain, Trinidad
Tel: 868 623 7009 or 868 627 9360
Fax: 868 624 1619 or 868 622 1043
E-mail: servol (at)

Last update: 11 August 2011