By Letoo James
A report dubbed “Do our Children Halve Life Skills and Values” released by Zizi Afrique Foundation in November this year following a survey of East African countries gave damning findings. Serious gaps exist in inculcating core competencies in our children. In problem-solving for instance, 95% of adolescents in Kenya are not proficient in problem-solving. Overall, only 9% of them are proficient in self-awareness. In interpersonal competencies, only 6% of teenagers expressed high respect for others while only 10% are proficient in collaborating with others. This verdict is a disturbing story of a life skills gap in our adolescent population.
The report findings are similar to CBT Kenya’s survey on the prevalence of mental health challenges our clients face. Our findings showed that psychosocial issues, and depressive and anxiety symptoms were the most prevalent issues presented in therapy. Further analysis showed that lack of life skills was a major risk factor responsible for the development and maintenance of these psychosocial issues, depressive and anxiety diagnoses.
Transferable skills also called life skills are abilities and skills that can be learned in one context and transferred to other domains of life. Learning and transfer of life skills can be viewed as an interconnected and developmental process. Childhood and adolescence are critical developmental periods of rapid growth (Moral, Physical, psychosocial) that strongly influence trajectories toward behavioral health and well-being. Children, teenagers, and young adults are the most at-risk and vulnerable groups to developing Behavioral Health Problems (BHP).
Behavioral health problems are the attitudes or actions that compromise youths’ physical, moral, psychological, emotional, and social well-being. Various risk factors, stressors, and lack of protective factors within the individual, family, environmental, and social domains contribute to the onset of an exacerbation of behavioral health problems. Some of these behavioral health issues include poor intra/interpersonal interactions, self-image/esteem, boundaries, self-regulation/control, peer influence, and risky behaviors like self-inflicted injury, sexual, substance, and or alcohol.
Protecting our children and youth requires responding with continuous opportunities for developing and building life skills. These skills give them competency in using adaptable, positive, and healthy coping responses.
CBT-Kenya’s Skills Transfer Program (STP) offers a safe opportunity for both parents and their teenagers to acquire valuable life skills and learn how to translate them to various areas of their lives. This program is a supportive and strength-based initiative to build youths’ capacity to adapt successfully in the presence of stressors, risk, and adversity. This is a program that targets youths from puberty to young adults in need of life skills training and learning.