Life-skills lessons turn Turkmen students into role models.
By Steve Nettleton
GEOKDEPE, Turkmenistan - January 8, 2008
After school, seventh-grader Jeren Yovbagshiyeva often comes home to sit down with her family for afternoon tea. On this day, however, instead of the usual talk about her progress in class, she has something else to discuss.
Her school has just had a special lesson about the risks of drug use and the dangers of HIV and AIDS. The lesson has stirred her to action.
“I was really struck by how drugs can destroy your whole life,” she says. “So I really feel it’s important for me to share this information with my friends and relatives.”
Jeren is what her teachers call a ‘pioneer’. She’ll take the knowledge she gained in the classroom and help spread it throughout her community. It is critical information in Turkmenistan, where many women cannot even identify how HIV is spread.
Ready to face the future
“We want the students to know how to protect themselves,” says teacher Reda Soyunova. “They should know to go to the doctor’s office. They need skills to help them in their future life.”
As part of this effort, UNICEF has helped build school resource centres equipped with computers, maps and games. Life skills are taught not only in the classroom but also in youth clubs, where students take part in sports, art and health activities. And teachers themselves receive specific training in life skills.
Avoiding risky behaviour
“If young people don’t know about the risks they face, they might not think drugs and HIV are really harmful,” says Jeren. “So it’s good that our teachers give us training and enough information so we can protect ourselves.”
Teachers and parents hope that life-skills education will give Turkmen children an advantage in safely finding their way to adulthood.