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Botswana: Newsline

Children’s voices contribute to the drafting of a national life skills framework in Botswana

©UNICEF/ HQ01-0190/Pirozzi
A play on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention for an audience of young people gathered on the street of a suburb of Gaborone, the capital.

NEWYORK, NY, USA, 30 January 2007 - A national life skills framework has been drafted in Botswana that incorporates the view of all relevant stakeholders, including those who are hard to reach. Lessons learned from youth and life skills programming in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) clearly demonstrate the need to put much more emphasis on a full partnership with young people in planning and implementing interventions aimed at changing their lives.

In Botswana, efforts have been made to engage more strongly with young people and ‘Telling The Story’ is one project that informed the development of the national life skills framework. Telling the Story, supported by the Botswana chapter of the Girls’ Education Movement, a grass-roots initiative that promotes equality in education throughout Africa. The project provides students with an opportunity to talk about challenges, helps them work on solutions under the mentorship of other young adults, and introduce them to professional women who can serve as role models.

Nationally, the stakeholders included 100 children representing the diversity of children in Botswana, and the exercise was coordinated by a reference group consisting of UN agencies, civil society partners, youth groups and the government.

The need for a national life skills framework had been identified after realizing that a number of government sectors and civil society partners were already involved in a number of life skills programmes, but with the following concerns:

  1. There was no standard definition of life skills.
  2. Efforts to deliver life skills education in Botswana were uncoordinated, fragmented and were not showing any impact.
  3. The schools were mainly used as a platform for service delivery, inundating them with demands from all service providers who were scrambling to provide services for the school children.
  4. The age appropriateness of life skills education content was a concern; but over and above that, no one was addressing life skills for children aged 0-5.
  5. Most life skills programmes addressed issues related to the impact of HIV/AIDS to the exclusion of other skills needed to make a child a well-rounded person.

This achievement is a result of a multi-country initiative in ESAR on Life Skills Education. Botswana is one of the countries benefiting from the assistance of the Government of the Netherlands since 2003 for the development and implementation of life skills interventions both in and out of school. Other countries include Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Consultations with young people in the region highlight the risk of HIV infection and the impact of HIV and AIDS, and consistently show that despite extensive information campaigns, the level of comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV and AIDS remains limited. They also raised other critical issues affecting them, such as poverty and food insecurity, gender based violence and unsafe environments, and access to education, health and other services.

Given this context, efforts are underway to support a broad-based inter-sectoral strategy on life skills that recognizes the reality confronting children in the region, including the full range of vulnerabilities.  The strategy seeks to address immediate concerns including impact mitigation and prevention of HIV and AIDS, poverty, conflict and post-conflict situations as well as the underlying and basic causes that perpetuate vulnerability, such as gender-based power structures, structural economic challenges with resulting inequities, social and family disintegration.

Good practices and lessons learned have been identified and documented, and consolidated into relevant mechanisms that could reach all children, adolescent and their caregivers in a sustained way. The aim of this regional initiative is, among others, to build on and scale up life skills provision throughout the region to draft national frameworks and plans, build capacity of claims holder and duty bearers, and ensure regional networking to share experiences.



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Related links
Botswana: ‘Telling the Story’ of girls’ education (December 2005)

UNICEF: Life Skills

Girls Too! Issue No. 8 - Life Skills (31 January 2007)

eDiscussion 2: Life Skills Education in the EFA Movement