UNODC’s The Zorbs Become Part of the Primary School Curriculum to Support Remote Learning During COVID-19 in Uzbekistan

The Ministry of Public Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan has announced the introduction of UNODC’s The Zorbs video series in Uzbekistan’s primary school curriculum. From the new academic year 2020-2021 and onwards, all 2 million children aged 6 to 12 attending primary school in Uzbekistan will have the opportunity to watch the story of an imaginary planet and its inhabitants who overcome a range of challenges thanks to various core values and skills.

As part of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Education for Justice (E4J) Initiative, The Zorbs series were designed as a fun yet informative educational tool, which comprises a set of animated videos that cover issues related to peace, justice, human rights and gender.

"As part of our COVID-19 response, the development of online education with involvement of international knowledge has become an even greater priority than it already was.” - noted Mr. Akbar Tagaev, Head of the Department for Spiritual and Moral Education at the Ministry of Public Education. “The Zorbs meet all our requirements for multimedia applications and will become an integral part of lessons in our primary school curriculum, which promote basic legal literacy among school pupils” - said Mr. Tagaev.

In 2019, UNODC, the Ministry of Public Education, the Academy of the General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) and professionals from the national “Uzbekfilm” Cinema Studio worked together to translate and dub all 9 episodes of The Zorbs into Uzbek Language.

«The Academy of the General Prosecutor’s Office is strongly committed to participate in such interesting and innovative initiatives.” – noted Mr. Uygun Nigmadjanov, Deputy Head of the Academy. “We are happy that our legal experts have been able to support the Ministry of Public Education, teachers and school children during the transition to online learning in the period of quarantine the COVID-19 pandemic”, – Mr. Nigmadjanov added.

Within the framework of measures taken by the Uzbek authorities to prevent and address the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, the Ministry of Public Education has shifted to online learning for all 6 million school students in Uzbekistan. To support this effort, the Ministry of Public Education has made The Zorbs available in three languages (Uzbek, Russian and English) on its official YouTube  page.

Broadcasting of The Zorbs on national TV is also foreseen, with each episode to be shown step by step according to the class schedule on 3 national TV channels specifically set up by the authorities for online education.

“With so many children out of school at the same time, there could be an adverse impact on children’s education and mental health. In the context of this heightened vulnerability, The Zorbs help sensitize children on issues, such as discrimination, gender-based violence, misinformation and cybercrime, among others, issues which are at the core of UNODC’s mission to promote peace and justice”. – stated Mr. Koen Marquering, International Program Coordinator at the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia in Tashkent. “UNODC welcomes Uzbekistan’s efforts to integrate education for justice initiatives in its school programs and to create a positive framework for students to be productive and engaged during this period of lockdown”. – said Mr. Marquering.

At the primary level (6 to 12 years old), UNODC’s E4J initiative focuses on promoting and teaching values such as acceptance, fairness, integrity and respect. Educational materials and tools, such as The Zorbs, contribute to building resilience among children, and equip them with skills such as conflict resolution, critical thinking, empathy and teamwork. These resources also contribute to supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Goals 4, 5, 10 and 16.