12 July 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic has had harmful effects on young people and communities across the world, with factors such as the loss of education and employment opportunities leading to increased risks of crime and stress associated with isolation. In Uzbekistan, where schools have been closed for much of the time since last year March, sport is being used as a powerful tool to bring educators and children back to normal school life. In this context, the Uzbek Ministry of Public Education and UNODC recently initiated a comprehensive sport-based campaign among young people in Kokand city, Fergana Valley. This campaign brought together educators from 40 schools in the region in several gatherings and saw a diverse range of people receive new, interactive tools to address issues around corruption, human trafficking, violent extremism, and integrity and ethics.
Ultimately, the initiative as a whole is designed to help educators in their work to develop a stronger understanding of – and adherence towards – the rule of law. As part of this campaign, a three-day training of trainers (ToT) was organized for 40 professionals from 20 schools on UNODC’s Line Up Live Up programme which uses sport as a tool to build life skills among young people. This offered the basis for the roll-out of Line Up Live Up to more than 400 school students in Kokand city during April and May.
By building the capacity of educators and strengthening key life skills of school children such as self-esteem, resisting peer pressure and effective communication, Line Up Live Up aims to reduce delinquency, violence and substance use among youth. “I had never thought that sport could be an instrument to both prevent crime and solve psychological issues,” noted one of the participating sports teachers, Elyor Shermatov, during the ToT. “We hope that, in partnership with the school’s psychologist, we will build the life skills of students, teach them teamwork and mutual support.” Reflecting the Government’s recognition of Line Up Live Up as an important element of children’s growth, the event was joined by Akbar Tagaev, Head of Department of Spiritual and Moral Education of Youth at the Uzbek Ministry of Public Education. In his remarks during the ToT, Mr. Tagaev spoke on the country’s experiences working with UNODC: “Line Up Live Up yielded positive results during the pilot phase in 2019-2020. We hope that students will learn to set positive life goals and work together with their classmates to achieve them.”
To mark completion of the training, participating youth attended closing ceremonies at the end of May, when they were brought together with their classmates and coaches at school to receive their Line Up Live Up certificates and symbolic awards. The feedback received from youth going through the programme was very positive. "It taught me how to get around the negative aspects of life and help friends find a way to achieve their goals", said Karimova Firdavs, a youth participant from Kokand city. "With the help of the programme”, added Murodov Muhammadrizo, another youth participant, “I learned to set goals in life at the very beginning of the path in order to achieve the desired result, even if the path is difficult and thorny".
The Ministry of Public Education assigned Kokand to be a pilot region with the purpose of conducting crime prevention actions and then to evaluate the results of such actions on youth crime rates. Based on the experience of Kokand, it is planned to scale up such ‘task-oriented’ campaigns to other regions of the country. This campaign is connected to the so-called ‘Five Initiatives’, which was launched by Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, aimed at creating an enabling environment for young people to display their potential, with a focus on education, development and employment. The second initiative is related specifically to engaging young people in physical education and sport, including increasing the capacity of sport facilities. To bring the initiatives into action, Government institutions are creating favourable conditions for young people through the construction of sport facilities and the organization of sport activities and awareness-raising campaigns.
Line Up Live Up should serve not only as a tool to unite school children after COVID-19 isolation, but to involve girls and boys in fun activities and promote healthy lifestyles, preventing anti-social behaviour.
Youth Crime Prevention through Sport