Life Skills-Based Education for HIV/AIDS Prevention, Health/Sanitation, Peace Education and the Environment in Southern Sudan (Operation Lifeline Sudan)

In a joint effort among UNICEF sectors, Life Skills-Based Education materials for HIV/AIDS prevention and Health/Sanitation in Southern Sudan have developed and tested.  The modules have an information section with activities for the mentors and the learners, as well as a separate methodology booklet and set of posters.  Two additional modules that are currently under development include Peace Education and the Environment.  These modules provide information and activities which will help mentors and learners to develop knowledge, attitudes and skills for landmine safety, conflict resolution, peace building, and the promotion of human rights.  The life skills-based education programme goes beyond the focus on curriculum alone and utilises a comprehensive approach to quality education.

Learners bring many things with them when they come to school: their language, culture, and experiences.  Two generations of children in many parts of Sudan have known only war and its attendant traumas, including psychosocial trauma, personal abuse, poor health, lack of education, and broken families.  Teachers need to be prepared to receive learners with a wide range of life experiences, and be able work with them to meet their social, emotional, and educational needs.  The learners in the life skills-based education programme include students, post-school aged young people, women’s groups, community groups, and local authority personnel.  UNICEF has begun to insist that all training events incorporate at least 50% women in the activities.

The learning environment – a critical dimension of education quality – must be gender-sensitive, healthy, safe, protective and successful in helping children to learn.  In Southern Sudan, UNICEF-OLS has adopted the strategy of supporting Community Centres which provide integrated services such as education, health care, clean water, sanitary latrines, and the chance to participate in youth groups, women’s groups and income generating projects.  Integrating the services and education at the centre of the community is crucial to ensuring that learners have the space and opportunity to practice the life skills that they have gained, and to share the personal experiences and attributes that they bring with them.
“Without education, one will not know what to do when sick. When a child is sick, the child cannot learn. Where there is no water point, the child cannot be healthy. This is why we like the Community Centre.” 
Participant in a community centre review meeting in Aburoc.

The content of the life skills-based education modules must include relevant, gender-sensitive learning materials developed in the context of the long-term goals for education.  Contributors to the UNICEF-OLS materials for HIV/AIDS prevention and Health/Sanitation came from various promotion and advocacy teams, such as the water promotion team, HIV/AIDS folklore group, human rights team, health promoters, and Life Skills facilitators, including counterparts and youth.  For example, the module for HIV/AIDS prevention incorporates information and activities on: Relationships; The facts about HIV/AIDS; Avoiding HIV; HIV, Gender and Culture; Violence and HIV; and Living with HIV and Caring for People with HIV and AIDS.

Whether in formal or non-formal educational settings, the processes that support quality education include well-trained teachers; supportive, child-friendly and gender-sensitive classrooms; participatory and active learning strategies; and monitoring and evaluation of programmes.  Training mentors in participatory methods to deliver quality life skills-based education is an important component of the programme.  In Southern Sudan, the programme focuses heavily on providing the mentors with adequate information, materials and training before they become “agents of change” in their own communities.

Ultimately, the desired outcome of life skills-based education is behavioural change for HIV/AIDS prevention, Health practices, Hygiene/Sanitation, Peace building or Environmental protection.  From quality life skills-based education come children who have acquired skills in critical thinking, decision-making, communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, coping, and self-management which can be applied to specific contexts such as HIV/AIDS prevention, hygiene practices, or conflict resolution.  These individuals also have greater self awareness – including awareness of rights, influences, values, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses – and thus, an improved ability to make informed choices in life.

See the section on Technical and Policy Documents under Resources for:  HIV & AIDS - Mentor's Information and Activity Book and Health & Sanitation - Mentor's Information and Activity Book.