|Life Skills for Young Ugandans - Primary Teachers' Training Manual (UNICEF, 190 p.)|
|Section One: The Life Skills Education Initiative|
In the final section of this chapter, we would like to raise and comment on some of the potential and actual problems that can arise when life skills are introduced into the curriculum. These are divided into two sections, yes... but and what if....
5.1 YES... BUT...
(i) Life skills are a nice idea but the syllabus does not give us any time.
It is true that life skills activities do take time and reduce the amount of time available for imparting of knowledge. However, by using a participatory methodology, the tutor is able to assess the level of knowledge already existing and build on it by addressing only those issues which are still problematic. As said by the Mbale participants:
The methodology provides simultaneous feedback on the learning experience of the child.
In addition, where students are active, interested and involved, they learn much faster and thus one is able to cover the content more quickly. In Kampala tutors commented:
The students learn more and you can cover more of the syllabus in a shorter space of time.
Therefore, the contention that there is no time has not been proven valid in terms of the research undertaken during the pre-testing of the manual.
(ii) These methodologies are very good but I dont have the time and the materials to prepare them.
It is true that, especially at the beginning, it takes time to produce unfamiliar material. However, the manuals have already provided a wide variety of materials and participants in the pretest who started making up their own activities based on the suggestions in Section Five, found that they were not too difficult as they arose out of their own experiences.
Secondly, participants found that, while the preparation may be more time consuming, and even painful, the actual classes were much more enjoyable and fulfilling and therefore less exhausting.
Once the students start to participate, the strain placed on the teacher is significantly reduced and they do not get as tired as they used to. As Mbale participants noted, the content sticks with less strain, not only for the student but also for the tutor.
Thirdly, most activities can be carried out using a few sheets of paper and the blackboard. Once students appreciate the methodology, they can be used to prepare the materials if necessary, such as copying out sufficient copies of a case study, questionnaire etc.
(iii) I would like to use life skills but my class is too big.
It is very true that large classes may make it quite difficult to use some of the methodologies recommended in this manual. However, the methods may be adapted to suit circumstances. For example, the children may be taken to an area outside the normal classroom where additional space is required. However, group work does not depend on the size of classes and some methods such as role plays can be rotated from group to group, week by week, in order to give every student a greater chance to participate and ensure that the large size of a class does not prevent these methods from being used for the benefit of the students and the teacher.
(iv) Participatory methods are more enjoyable but they lead to more noise and a breakdown in discipline.
Findings from the pretest proved otherwise. Pupils and students were so absorbed in the activities that discipline actually improved. Discipline is more likely to break down when students have no interest in what they are being taught. The Mbale participants even commented that energisers and icebreakers (See Section 2) in fact boosted class control, concentration span and interest.
(v) We should teach life skills but they should not lead to pupils and students questioning our own practices.
In the pretest, some teachers, and headteachers, did not like some of the activities such as those related to destructive teacher behaviour and the health promoting school because they raised awareness of some of the negative practices and situations that exist in their schools. However, even without such activities, children already make such observations and it is incumbent upon the teacher to modify the behaviour identified as inappropriate. The activities are intended to help teachers and educational administrators to improve their practice.
At the same time, headteachers may argue that the school is so dilapidated because of economic constraints and that therefore it is wrong to criticise. However, such an activity could lead to a new appraisal, even with the PTA on how to ensure that schools really are health promoting and identify achievable targets for development.
(vi) Life skills are good but they go against culture and religion.
It is interesting that, in the pretest, one teacher at Mengo secondary school commented that:
The topics are good and helpful in helping teachers as custodians of culture in schools and curriculum.
Culture is not static and communities themselves are changing and developing in response to the challenges of a changing society. Life skills do not preach but rather raise issues which allow teachers and their pupils/students to look critically at culture in order to ensure the survival/development of those aspects which reinforce the society. The same applies to religion. It is only those who cannot tolerate debate who could object to the raising of issues.
(i) What if the pupils become so emotionally involved that the debate gets out of hand?
Because life skills raise real issues affecting the lives of the children, they are likely to become emotionally involved. This is why the early activities in team building and laying down ground rules for discussion are so important.
It is also worth remembering that an animated discussion does not mean that it has got out of hand. The teacher has to let go and allow the debate as long as the students are actively involved and learning. It is not necessary for the teacher to control the whole discussion.
In addition, teachers should be aware of other support staff and agencies that may be able to offer help and advice to certain students and maybe even involve them in the discussion.
(ii) What if young people are bored with such issues and dont want to listen?
Although this was raised by a participant in the pretest, the actual experience proved the opposite. If the young people are bored, it will be because the activity, or manner of presentation had some weakness and the teacher should discuss this with the students and look for an alternative method. Very often, the young people become bored as soon as they realise they are being preached at in another guise. The reflections from the pre-test were that the life skills activities were enjoyable and beneficial to the needs of the children.
(iii) What if a childs rights are being violated?
If it becomes apparent in discussion that a childs rights are being violated at home, school or in the community, the Local Government (Resistance Councils) Statute 1993, provides that the Vice chairperson of every Resistance Committee at all levels is the Secretary for Childrens Welfare with the responsibility of ensuring that the rights of the child are protected.
Therefore, if necessary, such cases of violation can be reported to the Vice chairperson. However, it may be worth trying more persuasive methods first through the staff meetings, Board of Governors, Parent Teacher Associations etc.