Canberra College's CCCares facility gives young parents flexible learning environment
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Canberra College's CCCares facility gives young parents flexible learning environment

By the end of the year, 21-year-old Palesa Molefe hopes to be enrolling in a bachelor of science and psychology degree, the first step on the path to her dream of becoming a police officer.

It's something she never imagined would be possible when, just before turning 19, she gave birth to her daughter Neriah without finishing year 12.

Student Palesa Molefe, 21, of Queanbeyan with her  two-year-old daughter Neriah Ganya at the opening of the new facility at Canberra College.

Student Palesa Molefe, 21, of Queanbeyan with her two-year-old daughter Neriah Ganya at the opening of the new facility at Canberra College.Credit:Jamila Toderas

Thanks to Canberra College's flexible learning program for young parents and parents-to-be CCCares, Ms Molefe hopes to graduate at the end of the year with her 12 certificate and three vocational courses: business, childcare and community service.

students share the

On Tuesday a $14-million purpose-built facility amalgamating the Woden and Weston Creek campuses was officially opened at Phillip and an excited Ms Molefe couldn't wait to take visitors on the grand tour.

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"It's amazing to be here … it opens a lot of doors and helps us get straight for our kids," she said.

"I want to show her [Neriah] that, 'I had you but I can do better'. You don't want to be stuck in the same job for the rest of your life because you didn't go back to school.

"I really just want to get everything I can out of being here because I do plan on going to uni."

The centre offers no timetabled classes; instead each student has an individualised program with help from seven teachers, eight assistants and online resources for them to extend their year-12 study over five years if needed.

The students and their children also have regular visits from nurses, legal aid workers, a careers' adviser and even a financial expert.

An onsite chef cooks lunch for the children and the students take time out of their day to share childcare and help clean up.

Principal George Palavestra said the program began with just four mothers in 2004, but currently has 160 pregnant or parenting students enrolled in the "world-first" facility that also lets students access mainstream schooling in the college campus.

You can't run a centre like this on a timetable, babies have their own timetable.

George Palavestra

"There's this perception that it's a 'Girls should have known better' scenario when people don't realise our clientele range from 16 through to 25," he said.

Mr Palavestra said unlike other vocational education and training programs, CCCares offered "state-of-the-art" flexibility.

"This is really the utopia in terms of an educational facility because an individualised program is what we'd all aspire to, but physically most schools couldn't deliver it because of the resource intensive part of the process," he said.

"You can't run a centre like this on a timetable, babies have their own timetable."

The new centre includes childcare facilities, a hair and beauty salon and hospitality suite to give students hands-on experience.

Education and training minister Joy Burch said the "first-rate" building was an international first and the program was about the community doing all it could to help the students become parents their children could be proud of.

"The only thing that drives most of us as parents is our kids," she said

Clare Colley is Head of Audience Engagement at The Australian Financial Review.