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Children and Adolescent Life Skills Training Network (CALSTN) is a non-profit making organization running a program called Skills-4-Life.  Skills-4-Life  focuses on providing innovative, relevant, age-appropriate and gender-sensitive life skills - based education to children, adolescents and young adults in Zambia.

Zambia is a landlocked Sub-Saharan African country which covers a land area of 752,612 square kilometers. The population of Zambia as captured during the 2010 Census of Population and Housing was 13,092,6661. The country is richly endowed with a number of natural resources which include large reserves of copper, Zambia’s main export.

Zambia’s population is relatively young, with an estimated 65 percent of the total population being under the age of 24. This demographic reality presents a number of opportunities, challenges and risks for the health, development and well-being of children, adolescents and young people, and consequently for the general population at large.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has been a particularly devastating public health problem in Zambia. Due to its cross-cutting nature HIV/AIDS has drastically hindered the economic development prospects of the country. By affecting the most economically active and productive members of the population i.e. those between the ages 15 – 49 through HIV/AIDS related mortality and morbidity, the pandemic has deprived the nation of the much needed human resource to drive the country’s development. The result of this has been the deepening of poverty levels and other associated negative effects such as the growth in the number of orphaned and vulnerable children, people living with HIV/AIDS etc. These factors have created excessive pressure on the country’s very limited resources.

Many strategies to prevent transmission of HIV, other STIs and unintended pregnancy among young people in Zambia include life skills education have been employed, but the interventions have however not yielded the desired results. For instance, despite the integration of life skills-based sexual and reproductive health education in the Zambian school curriculum, the level of comprehensive knowledge of HIV transmission remain significantly low among young people in Zambia. Several factors have been cited as reasons contributing to the low effectiveness of life skills-based education in the country. These include:

  • Coverage:The National AIDS Strategic Framework 2011–2015 (NASF 2011-2015) states that in 2006, 60 percent (4,567out of 7,611) of schools were providing life skills based HIV education and by 2007, a cumulative number of 1,102,637 young people were reached with life-skills based HIV education. The NASF annual report (2009) indicated that of the 2,437,198 young people targeted for life skills education, only 277,982 (11 percent) were reached, a 17 percent reduction from 2007;

  • 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. Another reason was that although teachers had been trained in life skills and HIV in 60 percent of schools, some did not show interest in HIV education as they considered it extra work (NAC 2009). Since sexuality education is not an examinable subject it is often given lower priority or left to guidance and counselling teachers, who are not given the time, skills, and resources to address sexuality education (UNESCO 2011);
  • 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-centred methodologies for effective life skills learning. They use didactic methods which focus on teaching knowledge to the learner rather than sharing it in an interactive and participative way.

It is against this background that Children and Adolescent Life Skills Training Network (CALSTN) sought to employ a life skills-based education programme (Skills-4-Life Project) as a strategy for preventing transmission of HIV, other STIs, early and unintended pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, violence and injury among young people in Zambia. CALSTN takes full cognizance of the gaps and weaknesses in the design and implementation of existing life skills-based education programming in Zambia and seeks to correct the same. The Skills-4-Life Program is a well-designed intervention which emulates the successes and best practices of existing life skills-based and other programmes while anticipating their pitfalls and avoiding their failures. By delivering the programme via an innovative, relevant, age-specific, gender and culture sensitive life skills-based education curriculum, the Skills-4-Life Project aims to effectively and efficiently persuade young people to engage in healthy behaviours and improve youth reproductive and sexual health outcomes (i.e. prevent unintended pregnancies, STI’s and HIV).