5.0 Problems and solutions
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
(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
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
(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
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
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
(iii) What if a childs rights are being
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