Turning life around with tolerance

‘Moshi moshi, Ola Ola, hello, apa kabar?” The classroom is filled with young women and men, all on their feet, giggling and talking excitedly. They’ve just learnt a song with actions (meaning ‘Hello how are you?’ in various languages) and they’re using it

Kate Watson
Adolescent Indonesian girls in a classroom taking part in games
UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Watson

21 June 2018

It’s only been running for 3 months at SMA Negri 2 Kabupaten Sorong School, but the results of the Pendidikan Kecapakan Hidup Sehat (PKHS, or Life Skills Education) programme are already showing through the self-confidence exuding from the students.

“It’s all really interesting and the games are really great!” says Dwirizki Sandola, age 17. “They help us express ourselves - we can say what we want, we can ask what we want!” he adds. Students in Indonesia are rarely given the opportunity to speak out during classes, so participating like this helps them to find their voices and feel empowered.

The Life Skills Education programme consists of a series of life skills topics which young people are encouraged to discuss and learn about through games, quizzes, examples and debates. Each session focuses on something new, such as dealing with conflict, understanding emotions – even topics like bullying or gender. Others focus on specific risks like drugs, unwanted pregnancy or HIV.

“Before this Life Skills Education programme began, there were many of us who hung out in bad groups or who were in negative situations, but through this programme, we were shown how things might eventually turn out.”

Dwirizki Sandola, age 17
Adolescent boy in school uniform
UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Watson
“Before, I used to do really bad things. I was violent…But through this programme, I’ve learnt how to handle my emotions and restrain myself.” Dwirizki Sandola, 17

This is one of the goals of the programme, to help young people through the sometimes-difficult decisions they need to make in their personal lives. It aims to help boost their confidence, build their social and personal skills, and better navigate the risks they face.

“Before, I used to do really bad things. I was violent,” Dwirizky adds. “But through this programme, I’ve learnt how to handle my emotions and restrain myself.”

Young people in Papua Province witness violence more often than they should, and so understandably often also resort to it when emotions take over. It’s a cycle that needs breaking if young people are going to take control of their futures.

Rizky Tiara Ramadani, age 17, is another student who has seen the difference her choices have made. “I used to get cajoled into joining in [with my friends]” she says. “They would coerce me to do bad things and I wasn’t brave enough to say no. I didn’t know how,” she says, defiantly adding that since joining the class, she now knows exactly how to refuse. She has found her voice.

Learning about the world from other’s perspectives is a crucial element of the programme, one that enables the students to empathise with others and see different possibilities for the future.

Adolescent girl outside her school
UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Watson
Through the Life Skills Programme, Rizky Tiara Ramadani, 17 has built the confidence to say no to her friends if she’s not comfortable with their activities.
Adolescent boy in classroom with adolescent girls in jilbabs behind
UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Watson
Kadek (17) takes part in a Lifeskills Education session at SMA 2 Kabupaten Sorong School.

“For me, the most interesting thing about Life Skills Education is learning about tolerance”

Dwirizky’s friend Kadek Windu Dea Atmaja, also age 17

Kadek moved to the area a few years ago from the island of Bali. Although it’s still Indonesia, Bali is several hours away by flight, and miles away in terms of the risks and challenges faced by each unique culture in the country.

“Most of the people there are Hindu, and I didn’t often meet people who were different,” says Kadek, who took a long time to adapt to his new, predominantly CHristian environment. “Over there, it was hard to think that people have a different way of life.”

Through the group discussions sparked in the Life Skills class, where he and his fellow classmates share their own experiences, he began to realise that everyone has a different background and that it makes things more interesting.

“My attitude has changed, I know more now and I am more tolerant. Maybe I stand out, but now I can understand that maybe they say bad things just because they don’t understand.”

It’s something he’s even passed onto his Grandma, who often complains that their neighbours don’t understand them. She listens to Kadek, as does his whole family, and he says it’s given them a lot more to reflect on together. “

The class ends with big smiles and laughter as the teenagers bounce out of the classroom in twos and threes ready to eat their lunch. “If this programme didn’t exist, I think the difference would be enormous,” adds Dwirizki. “Turning negative things into positive things is huge! If we weren’t guided, there would be no alternatives and we wouldn’t know where we were going,” he says “Maybe we’d still be doing bad things until now!”