What is an adolescent period? What is peer pressure? What is HIV-AIDS?
Not exactly easy to answer, even if students have multiple choices and just have to tick on one box. But Ranchi’s prestigious all-girls Loreto Convent is asking 1,200 such questions to its students between Classes VI and XI, as it becomes the first private school in the capital to launch Jharkhand State AIDS Control Society (JSACS)’s adolescent education programme titled Udaan.
In fact, Jharkhand has been a frontrunner in bringing life skills education — an euphemism for sex education — to state-run schools three years ago, even as the issue continued to stir up a hornet’s nest across India. Udaan is a part of the school curricula for Classes IX and XI across 1,258 state-run schools.
Surprisingly, elite city schools went into wait-and-watch mode. But now, they will also join the programme under state HRD department and JSACS. St Xavier’s School is also planning to start Udaan soon, confirmed principal Father Ajit Khess.
Gargi Mullik, who teaches English and economics at Loreto Convent, said they started the programme in October. “We are the first private school in Ranchi to start Udaan, targeting students from Classes VI to XI,” she said.
As a warm-up, the school conducted a two-day meet on sexual abuse in June. In August, all teachers were trained to impart life skills education.
Now, classes are held thrice a week. “We address issues like sex education, HIV/AIDS, among other things,” said Mullik’s colleague Dalia Chatterjee, who teachers math and economics in Classes IX and X.
Students are now answering 1,200 questions, which will determine their current level of knowledge, factual or based on preconceptions and myths.
“We have a handbook with case studies of problems faced by adolescents. They help us break the ice,” said Mullik.
Students are attending classes with maturity. Class VII student Trisha Tanya said she appreciated the initiative.
Aradhana Patnaik, project director of state AIDS control society, said they started Udaan for state-run cradles and wanted private schools to join.