16 April 2020 – Judging from current trending subjects on social media platforms as the spread of COVID-19 forces schools to shut around the globe, parents of young children have felt a surge of renewed appreciation for educators. After suddenly becoming de facto teachers themselves, most are trying to follow an approximate schedule and a flexible curriculum, but improvisation is also needed to fill the long days with the right balance between formal learning and fun.
The expertise of respected specialists has helped make this unique experience more palatable for both children and parents – especially those who must do their job from home as well. With a wide variety of educational and smart edutainment resources available today, many of them online, parents are heeding the advice of pedagogists on teaching children through diverse forms - ranging from direct telling to showing – by using several ways to drive home a lesson.
Through its Education for Justice initiative (E4J, a component of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration), UNODC has developed several tools to help ensure that young children continue receiving a comprehensive education, regardless of the circumstances. What makes UNODC’s products particularly noteworthy is their emphasis on values, on teaching children to think, and on helping them build special empowering skills.
Take The Zorbs, the cuddly aliens already beloved by many children after they found refuge on planet earth when their own planet, Zorb, was destroyed by strife. As ambassadors of peace, they help children understand what it takes for a world of justice and lawfulness, where doing the right thing safeguards peace for everyone. Intella personifies leadership qualities, showing children how to think when facing complex situations. Scooter demonstrates team work, integrity and resilience by showing children the value of helping and assisting one another. Signal teaches them about resolving conflict through communication, dialogue and acceptance. Sentimo shows children how understanding others’ feelings can help to bring people together.
E4J‘s Zorbs concept includes an animated series in several languages, freely available online, a series of comic books, a number of activities and colouring pages in the Fun Corner, and even a wonderful digital tool, Zorbify, giving children the creative space to produce their own comics.
Children’s increased online presence does bring challenges, with many parents compromising somewhat on the time they allow their children to use various devices. To teach children about safety on the Internet, while affirmatively reinforcing their own roles in protecting themselves, E4J has devoted two episodes of The Zorbs (videos, comic books and lesson plans) to address online safety specifically. On that same subject, parents will find that The Online Zoo book will also help young children understand challenges they could face and encourage them to take the lead in tackling them, through the engaging story of zoo director Elsa who explains to the animals how to stay safe while having fun online.
E4J also addresses gender-based violence with its hugely topical video game Chuka, Break the Silence and its accompanying comic book, where young girls and boys learn to develop responses to psychological, physical and sexual violence. By playing as the character Chuka, a 13-year old YouTuber and gamer who faces haters and monsters in a nightmare, children need to be assertive and act appropriately depending on the nature of the aggression, deciding on when to take action personally and when to turn to trusted adults. The innovative game builds players’ critical thinking and decision-making skills, while developing notions of fairness, respect and empathy. Parents will also find valuable advice on how to help their young children through the game and how to discuss these issues in E4J’s Parents’ Guide.
In the conception of all its educational resources and activities, E4J strives to integrate and mainstream a gender perspective alongside other important principles. The development of strong values and ethics in children of all ages is a key denominator in all of E4J’s material, with a mixture of approaches and resources used to achieve the best results at different school levels. They are a perfect complement to the formal education of children everywhere, and a useful support to parents looking for ways to educate, entertain and engage their youngsters.
Education for Justice Primary Level