Life Skills
© UNICEF/Zambia

Key Statistics

 • HIV prevalence among 15-19 years-old is 4.7 percent (3.6 percent of males and 5.7 percent of females).
 • HIV prevalence among 19-24 years-old is 8.7 percent (5.1 percent of males and 11.8 percent of females).
 • Among the 15-24 age group:
       - Comprehensive knowledge of HIV is 39.2 percent (40.7 percent of males and 37.8 of females);
       - Condom use during last high risk sex among 15-24 years is 7.1 percent (9.7 percent of males and 4.9 percent of females);
       - HIV tested and know results: 33.6 percent (19.7 percent of males and 41.4 percent of females).


In Zambia, HIV prevalence among people aged 15-49 is 14.3 percent. Among 15- to 19-year-olds, infection rates are 3.6 percent for girls and 5.7 percent for boys. While this age group is highly at risk of acquiring HIV, they also hold the greatest hope of reversing the trend if they are equipped with the right information, skills, and services. 

A number of reasons may be contributing to the low knowledge levels in Zambia, including:

 • Coverage: the 2009 UNGASS report reported that only 60 percent of schools were offering life skills;
 • Teacher Preparation: teachers are not always adequately prepared to teach an integrated life skills curriculum and their comfort levels with taboo sexuality topics  remain low;
 • Materials: A 2008 life skills audit indicated that some schools do not have access to life skills materials;
 • Content: the curriculum may not be HIV sensitive enough;
 • Delivery: teachers may not be utilizing critical participatory and learner-centered methodologies for effective life skills learning.

For years, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has recognized the role that life skills can play in promoting healthy lifestyles among learners. As early as 1996, ministry policy of “Educating Our Future” noted that the provision of life skills education is one way of halting the further spread of HIV among school going children, clearly stating that “the development of life skills and in areas of sexuality and personal relationships, will serve as channel for messages about HIV and AIDS." Subsequently, MoE has integrated life skills education in curriculum and syllabi.


Research is clear that carefully designed and evaluated school-based HIV prevention programmes can increase knowledge, promote safer sexual behavior, and reduce stigma. In Zambia, though significant progress has been made to incorporate HIV prevention education into the formal school curriculum, HIV and AIDS knowledge levels remain at an unsatisfactory level: 41 and 38 per cent for boys and girls aged 15 to 24, respectively, against an UNGASS target of 95 percent by 2010. A recent Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality study found  even lower HIV and AIDS knowledge levels among grade sixth grade learners (average age 13 ½ years): 35.9 percent for boys and 33.6 percent for girls. Current research is clear that carefully designed and evaluated school-based HIV prevention programmes can increase knowledge, promote safer sexual behavior, and reduce stigma. In Zambia, more rigorous research is needed to determine the coverage, impact, and gaps of life skills programs for in- and out-of-school children.


In partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), life skills education focuses on four strategic priority areas:

Life Skills Materials Development, Standard Setting and Coordination:
UNICEF has supported MoE in the development of supplementary materials for learners and teachers on life skills. By 2007, the Curriculum Development Centre produced and distributed a complete set of life skills resources for use in grades 1 to 7. The   process of developing teachers’ guides and pupils’ books for the upper basic level (grades 8 and 9) was initiated and completed in 2009. In the implementation of the Life Skills Education (LSE), a realization was made that HIV and AIDS interventions within MoE by various directorates was not well coordinated. UNICEF supported the formation of a LSE coordination committee. The multi-sectoral committee is comprised of MoE directorates (human resources, standards & curriculum, teacher education, and specialized services-guidance and counselling), other ministries with a youth mandate, representatives of civil society organizations with HIV and LSE expertise, and the National AIDS Council. It is anticipated that this will herald the achievement of a coordinated response that is founded on clear accountabilities and inter-departmental collaborative efforts. As noted earlier, the 2008 life skills audit revealed that there were challenges in teachers delivering an integrated lesson to the learners.

Additionally some teachers did not fully understand the key expected outcomes for life skills. It was further observed that life skills providers such as NGOs were using different modules due to the absence of a standardized life skills framework from MoE. In response, UNICEF in collaboration with UNESCO and UNFPA supported MoE in the development a life skills framework whose aim is to guide life skills provision in educational institutions and non-formal settings. The life skills framework, though developed in line with the existing curriculum, has provided additional information on age appropriate and gender sensitive learning outcomes for all levels from early childhood development (ECD) to high school. This has also set standards for assessment for key outcomes at each level.

Supporting school based systematic implementation of HIV and AIDS programmes through the rollout of the MoE HIV and AIDS work place policy at the school level:
In July 2006, the MoE launched the HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy for the Education Sector for Management and Mitigation of HIV and AIDS. The human resources department implements this policy at all levels. Human resources (with support from other partners) works with teacher unions to invite the involvement of teachers through campaigns for them to access voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) during teacher health days, as well as the initiation of a health care scheme which allows for teachers to access subsidized HIV treatment at provincial health facilities. UNICEF has been supporting the development of school level HIV and AIDS plans. The school level HIV and AIDS policies provide a more structured and comprehensive response catering for the needs of both teachers’ and learners’. It complements the HIV knowledge and life skills provided in the classroom.

 Supporting complimentary delivery of life skills to learners through innovative approaches by NGOs:
UNICEF has been supporting NGOs to compliment MoE delivery of life skills to learners through peer interventions and life skills through sports. These interventions have targeted in- and out-of-school children in selected provinces.


 • Enhanced capacity of curriculum specialists in life skills. This has culminated in the development and printing of life skills materials for teachers and learners in grades 1 to 9.
 • To guide the provision of age-relevant life skills education for children from pre-school to secondary levels, life skills education framework has been developed for incorporation into primary and community school curricula.
 • Life skills is included as one of the four areas of learner competencies to be assessed as part of the national education assessment at the basic education level, which is conducted every two years by the National Examinations Council. 


Expected Results in 2011-15 UNICEF Zambia Country Programme – HIV AIDS and Life Skills
Basic school teachers are equipped with skills to effectively transfer age-relevant and gender sensitive HIV and AIDS Life skills to learners by 2015.

Under the UNICEF country program 2011-2015, HIV prevention among learners and life Skills education will be a key focus area. UNICEF will continue support for building capacity of MoE to deliver effective life skills education to all learners. UNICEF will further support MoE to strengthen the content of the life skills being offered to include sexuality education. UNICEF will work in partnership with Ministry of Health to expand youth friendly health services so that the in- and out-of-school children and youths can have access to reproductive health services in a friendly environment.




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