In which Emily schools and gets schooled

Let’s talk about Life Skills.

The majority of my job is either teaching Life Skills, or doing the logistical work that will put me in front of a group of youth, subsequently allowing me to teach Life Skills. While every day is different, if you want to know what it is that I’m even doing in Lesotho, the answer is, for the most part, teaching Life Skills.

So what is Life Skills? Life Skills doesn’t have an exact corresponding subject in American school. During my educational experience, the topics I cover in Life Skills were covered in everything from DARE to health class to debate club to classroom visits by Mrs. Russell, our elementary school guidance counselor.  We talk about things like how to communicate effectively, how to have high self-esteem, how to set goals, how to resist peer pressure, and how to deal with puberty. We also talk about more technical things like drugs and alcohol, sexual and reproductive health, and employability skills.

Why these topics? The stated goal of my Peace Corps program, Healthy Youth, is to mitigate HIV infection among young people. Sexual and reproductive health is a shoe-in, then, but the other topics can also reinforce the resistance youth have to contracting HIV. Think about it: Youth are most likely to contract HIV by having unprotected sex. Youth are most likely to have unprotected sex because of peer pressure, drug and alcohol use, low self-esteem, etc. Youth who choose not to have unprotected sex are more likely to be employed, have goals for the future and be working towards those goals (hence prioritizing their health and safety), be assertive communicators, etc. It’s a socially holistic approach to keeping youth AIDS-free.

I teach Life Skills in several different settings to several different groups of students. One of these groups is a Form A class at a local high school. Form A is equivalent to 8th grade. They are the A1 class, meaning the highest-achieving students (Lesotho has no problem with educational tracking). I get an hour and twenty minutes with them once a week, during which time I try to keep them as engaged as possible. Lots of activities, games, and song and dance breaks break up the heavy doses of #realtalk.

I hosted a Peace Corps trainee for a few days for Host Volunteer Visit (HVV is a way for trainees to see what daily life is like at a Volunteer’s site), and she gamely agreed to take some photos of me in action with my Form A class. Enjoy!