This Life Skills Education Initiative has been developed on the
basis of several other initiatives. These include:
(a) School Health Education Project (SHEP)
SHEP was a component of the 1985-9 and 1990-1995 Uganda
Government/UNICEF Country Programmes. The aims of SHEP were as follows:
· To influence a
reduction in infant and child morbidity and mortality.
· To influence a reduction in STD and HIV infection
among the youths aged 6-20 years.
Appropriate content was then identified, materials produced and
teachers trained to implement the project. SHEP was first introduced in Primary
6 and 7 because, while pupils in these classes had habits and behaviours which
were still modifiable, they, especially girls, were at risk of dropping out of
school and starting families of their own. Therefore it was important that they
were equipped with some health knowledge, skills and attitudes to assist them.
In addition, it was expected that they would inform their parents and other
children about the health messages they were receiving in school, thereby
creating a multiplier effect since a very large number of families had school
going children. The programme was later extended to all primary school classes.
However, when an impact evaluation into SHEP was carried out, it
was found that, while childrens knowledge on health issues had increased
significantly, there was no corresponding behaviour change. The missing link was
identified as the life skills to assist the children to translate knowledge into
positive health behaviours.
(b) Early Life Skills Initiatives
Throughout the whole Eastern and Southern Region of Africa
(ESAR) there has been a growing awareness that:
(i) The needs and life skills for children and
adolescents have been largely neglected in current educational programmes in and
out of school
(ii) Life skills are an essential aspect of confronting the
crisis caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other social problems facing young
In response to this, UNICEF-ESAR held a regional workshop in
Entebbe, Uganda in June 1994 with the aim of reaching a common understanding of
the concept of life skills and how it could be adapted to the African situation.
In addition, it looked at how life skills could be integrated into current
Subsequently, Uganda held a national workshop in the same year
in Jinja to discuss life skills further in the Ugandan context. This workshop
came up with suggestions for a life skills programme based on the current needs
and problems of Ugandan youth. However, in the course of further workshops, it
was agreed that it was better to infuse life skills activities into current
syllabi in use in schools and colleges than to have a separate life skills
curriculum: The reasons for this are:
(i) Within the current curricula, there is no space
on the timetable for a separate life skills programme.
(ii) Since a life skills curriculum would not be examinable, it
would not be given the necessary emphasis by teachers who are accustomed to
concentrating on preparing their pupils and students for
(iii) Life skills cut across the whole school
curriculum and can be infused into all subjects taught.
Thus it was decided to adopt an infusion approach, whereby life
skills would be integrated firstly into the Health and Science syllabi and later
into other subjects.
(c) The Basic Education, Child Care and Adolescent
Development Intervention (BECCAD)
The 1995-2000 Uganda Government/UNICEF Country Programme
stresses the promotion of positive behaviour change with emphasis on women,
children and adolescents. BECCAD is one of the four interventions intended to
bring about such behaviour change. The Programme Plan of Operations states that
the aim is:
To promote full cognitive and psycho-social
development of children and adolescents within a supportive family and community
environment which is conducive to education for all, prevention of
HIV/AIDS/STDs, adequate care and protection of children and adolescents from
birth to adulthood.
A Growing Child
One important aspect of this is to equip children and
adolescents with life skills that will enable them to deal effectively with the
demands and challenges of everyday life.
In order to achieve this objective, the Uganda Government/UNICEF
Country Programme produced Into the 21st Century: Life Skills Education
Resource Booklet (1996) for all those who work with children and
adolescents, especially teachers in Primary and Secondary schools. Subsequently,
a team was identified and trained to prepare this manual for tutors and
lecturers in Teachers Colleges so that they can train pre-service and
in-service teachers as the first step towards introducing life skills into the
(d) Baseline Study on Life Skills
A baseline study conducted in 1996 to determine the level of
life skills of Ugandas primary school children found that:
(i) the children had a moderate but insufficient
level of life skills.
(ii) teaching strategies in schools were content and examination
driven/focussed and were therefore neither pupil centred nor suitable for life
(iii) when life skills were explained to teachers, they quickly
saw their value and were eager to embark on such an initiative.
(iv) community representatives, like the teachers, welcomed the
idea of initiating life skills education even though they had not known about
life skills before.
(e) Pretesting of Life Skills Manuals
In 1996. BECCAD commissioned a team of writers to produce Life
Skills training manuals for primary and secondary school teachers in order to
meet the needs of Ugandan children. After the draft manuals had been produced,
the writers, together with a few selected trainers, pretested the materials in
Mbale, Bushenyi, Kampala and Lira. In each of the districts, a four day training
was carried out for lecturers, tutors and teachers who were then encouraged to
try out the activities in the manuals with their target groups. Educational
administrators and relevant non governmental organisations (NGOs) were also
involved. Below are some of the salient points from the pretesting:
(i) Many of the participants knew little or nothing
about life skills before the training but, as a result of the training received,
they were both knowledgeable and highly enthusiastic. In all the districts they
urged that life skills should be integrated across the curriculum rather than in
health education alone.
(ii) Participants felt that the objectives of the manual were
straightforward, achievable, clear and specific; the content was relevant, easy
to follow and use and suitable to the age group; and the methodology was
relevant and appropriate.
(iii) Participants made several suggestions on improving
activities and addressing other issues which have been incorporated into the
final draft of this manual.
It is worth noting the following:
(i) Teachers who tried out these activities
The content sticks with less strain on the part of both
student and instructor. (Pretest participants, Mbale)
The activities contribute to learning because they involve
everyone in a relaxed way which leads to greater confidence in learners.
(Pretest participants, Kampala)
The activities fit in with the syllabus and enable tutors to
cover material more quickly and enjoyably (pretest participants,
This is important in that one of the most commonly stated
objections is that it will be impossible to integrate life skills because of the
demands of the syllabus and examinations.
(ii) The participants in the Lira workshop held a
follow up meeting on their own initiative which prepared an action plan to
target PTAs with information about life skills. The Headteachers
Association also held a meeting and resolved to set up a health education
department with the aim of ensuring that health materials are taught in a life
skills participatory way.
In Mbale and Bushenyi, some participants immediately organised
sensitisation sessions for other members of staff.
The reaction of pupils and students was similar. In Nyondo, the
materials were tried on a Primary Six class who were so excited that they
continued imitating the lesson even after it had ended. Elsewhere, a group of
students attended very reluctantly on the first day because it was their
holidays but enthusiastically attended on the second day because they found the
materials relevant and the methodology absorbing. Student teachers urged their
tutors to continue using the same methodology.
These reactions are also important because they show how life
skills, taught in a participatory way, really do address the students
concerns and feelings and therefore are likely to lead to not only behaviour and
attitude change but also improved learning.
To sum up the reactions one can quote the comments from Kampala
It relates to our daily lives as regards our
health, emotions, character building, learning abilities and social
interactions. It is also systematically arranged and extremely
Indeed this book is appropriate and relevant. It broadens
ones knowledge of issues and trains how to react to situations
appropriately. It is also both teacher and child centred. Through the numerous
activities involved, both facilitators and pupils greatly benefit.
The book is extremely readable and clear. It has nice reading
texts which stimulate ones interest and the accompanying questions for
discussion help to sharpen the mind. Moreover they are drawn from life like
situations and therefore educative. In addition, they are a variety - poems,
dialogues, short stories, songs, character sketches. The numerous activities to
be done, as shown in this book, help in making students active.
We welcome further comments from lecturers, tutors and teachers
who will use the manual. What is clear from the pretest is that once one starts
to teach life skills, the overwhelming reaction is