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HFLE project ‘falling short’

Andrew Browne, [email protected]

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IMPLEMENTATION of the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) programme in schools here and in the rest of the Caribbean has not had the measure of success anticipated.
That’s according to Elaine King, adolescence and HIV/AIDS specialist UNICEF (Eastern Caribbean), who said the educational system was more focused on preventing problems in adolescents than on developing the competency and skills to cope with the pressures.
At the recent University in the Community panel discussion, hosted by the University of the West Indies, King called for a reassessment of the programme with regard to its implementation.
Speaking on Developing Positive Life Skills For Children’s Healthy Well-Being, King felt the programme was focused on giving information rather than on application of knowledge.
She proposed that the curriculum be geared to the teaching of life skills, values, attitudes, gender differences, and self-esteem building.
King said the comprehensive skills-based programme faced other challenges such as incorporation into the school’s timetable, with the HFLE classes clashing with other teaching classes and usually being dropped.
She called on the Ministry of Education to support the implementation of the project in the schools, and have the classes included for at least two class periods each week.
King also suggested the need for further training of teachers to ensure they were competent and sufficiently comfortable in discussing issues with students.
Dr Jennifer Crichlow, regional coordinator for the implementation of the HFLE here, explained that the programme, developed through a pilot study in four Caribbean islands, was tested and had very positive outcomes.
She said it had very positive outcomes in students who had been exposed but found that the education system did not value the programme and therefore there was no sustainable development since its inception.
Crichlow said she was gravely concerned about the statistics which showed HIV infection among students as young as 14 years, as well as bullying in schools.
She felt the programme would therefore focus on curbing violence and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. (LK)