Programmes for adolescents and secondary education are relatively new areas for UNICEF, and now a priority for the organization under the current Country Programme Action Plan 2013-17.
Leading up to working directly in secondary education, UNICEF has been concentrating on engaging with adolescents in upper primary school. A lot of work has already been done, particularly with the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV) – residential upper primary schools for 11 to 14-year-olds who are out of school and girls from the most disadvantaged and marginalized communities.
For the holistic growth of girls in KGBVs, UNICEF has supported the development and integration of programmes to build life skills, vocational awareness, self defence, physical education and sports.
Another intervention is on empowerment of girls and boys through the formation of adolescent collectives such as the Meena Manch/Meena-Raju Manch. UNICEF’s approach has usually been to consolidate its work in the KGBVs and then take it to upper primary schools. This has been a rich learning experience to prepare UNICEF for a wider role at the secondary level.
Some beginnings have also been made in the states to model a life skills programme designed for adolescents at the upper primary level. This is being adapted in a form appropriate to students at the secondary level.
Another area of focus has been to promote the transition of girls from upper primary to secondary schools through mapping elementary and secondary schools, KGBVs and other residential schools and hostels under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhijan (RMSA).
This exercise is being complemented by efforts to strengthen the functioning of community-based structures such as School Management Committees. Taking this forward, a campaign to improve the transition of girls from upper primary to secondary education is planned jointly with the National Department of School Education and Literacy and Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
In collaboration with UNICEF’s Child Protection, Child Development and Nutrition, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Advocacy and Communication and Communication for Development sections, groundwork for a convergent programme for adolescents has been completed in one district. This experience will inform similar initiatives in other districts.
Taking a cue from an “education to employment” initiative being implemented in some state-run secondary schools – one where teachers are trained in effective use of the scheme’s materials and methods and which has now been integrated in the school routine – UNICEF is preparing to launch the same programme in KGBVs with the added component of life skills.
In collaboration with the MHRD’s Department of School Education and Literacy, a workshop on Adolescent Education had been held and another scheduled for December 2014.
The workshops provide valuable insights into programming priorities for RMSA and potential areas of partnerships with UNICEF. Their focus is on perspective-building on the issues and concerns of adolescents that make them vulnerable, and the skills needed to prepare them for life.
It aims to bring to the table aspects of adolescence that are usually not talked about and are consequently left out during programme planning. During the workshops, learnings and experiences from intervention in these areas are shared to create awareness about programming possibilities as well as potential resources that may be tapped.
Focusing on three broad topics – school-related, skills for life and skills for work – they help bring clarity about the way forward at the national and state levels, and strengthen interventions for adolescents.
UNICEF In Action
Strategic Policy and Planning
UNICEF has been participating in fora provided by government counterparts for policy and planning as also in processes for planning and review in collaboration with state governments. UNICEF has been contributing to important policy dialogues led by the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Department of Secondary Education. This includes advocacy for specific government directives to facilitate effective interventions for students of the secondary grades.
Evidence Based Administrative Interventions for promoting Girls’ Education
Towards developing an evidence based tool to inform management decisions for targeted interventions to promote girls’ education, a digital Gender Atlas is has been developed by UNICEF for MHRD, GOI. The prototype of the Gender Atlas for has been made avaiable and will be replicated for all states and union territories in the country in 2015.
In selected states RMSA has been supported by UNICEF in the area of Science and Mathematics teaching. Mobile Science Laboratories have also been supported in one instance. Use of ICT for teacher education in one state has not only led to interactive classrooms but has motivated teachers to innovate and creatively transact lessons in class.
Alongside this teachers have formed subject specific forums and these have proved very useful in furthering the pedagogical content and methodology in the teaching process. Most importantly, these fora have provided a platform to teachers for fruitful intellectual exchange and enhancing the quality of their work.
Empowerment of Students
Realising the potential of students, particularly girls, and the fact that there is a lot to learn from the experience of constituting adolescent collectives in upper primary schools, the idea of constituting similar collectives at the secondary level are under discussion with RMSA.
Taking a cue from an initiative on ‘education to employment’ that is being implemented in a selected number of state run secondary schools that has been integrated in the school routine and teachers are trained in effective use of the materials and methods developed for the intervention, UNICEF is preparing to launch the same programme in KGBVs with an added component of life skills.
In collaboration with the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, a workshop on adolescent education had been concluded and another has been scheduled in December 2014.
They will provide valuable insights on programming priorities for RMSA and potential areas of partnerships with UNICEF. The workshop focus is on perspective building about issues and concerns of adolescents that make them vulnerable and what is required to prepare them for life. It aims to bring to the table aspects of adolescence that are usually not talked about and are consequently left out while programme planning.
Learnings and experiences of intervention in these areas are shared to create awareness about programmatic possibilities as well as potential resources that may be tapped. While dwelling on the three broad strands of (i) school related aspects (ii) skills for life and (iii) skills for work, it is also expected to facilitate clarity on the way forward at the national and state levels and strengthen interventions for adolescents.