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Life skills-based education gets girls back to school in Tajikistan
ISFARA, Tajikistan, 7 November 2006 – Twenty per cent of young girls in Tajikistan are missing school. Most of them stay home to help their mothers with housework, while others take on seasonal farm work.
With limited family income, the priority is to educate boys who are expected to support their parents in old age. Girls are expected to marry and leave the family, so their education is seen as an expensive burden.
To attract girls back to school with the support of their families, UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education and non-governmental organizations here to implement life skills-based education in 50 selected schools where girls’ attendance is low.
Poverty a barrier to education
Tajikistan is the poorest of the former Soviet republics, with 76 per cent of its child population living under the poverty line of $2.15 a day. Unemployment has so devastated the educated population that even many of them believe education is pointless, especially when it comes to girls.
“It is very difficult to give an education to the whole family because of poverty,” says Muazzama Homidova, a seasonal farm worker in Isfara, a district of northern Tajikistan. “They cannot send the girls to school because of fees. On top of this, they have to buy textbooks and shoes. You need money for this.”
Learning practical skills
Under this approach, parents are now allowing girls to return to school because they can learn practical domestic skills. Once they are in school, girl students learn how to read, write and calculate. They also learn about HIV/AIDS prevention, conflict resolution and negotiation. Consequently, the girls gain confidence and learn to think and speak for themselves.
“My parents allowed me to attend this school so I could learn traditional arts and crafts,” says Madina Zarnigorova, 15. “But I also learn mathematics and other things.”
Madina lives in Isfara, where more than 300 school girls had been identified to be at risk of not completing compulsory primary education because of poverty. UNICEF supports life skills-based education in 10 schools in this district and in 40 other schools in five other districts around the country. A total of 850 girls now benefit from the life-skills education project.