The state education and health departments are set to launch an anti-tobacco curriculum in 480 government primary schools across six districts this coming academic session.
The curriculum will include sets of seven graphic board-games with names like Crooked Cigarettes and Grimy Gutkha that,much like the pictorial warnings on sachets containing tobacco products,are hoped will deter children from taking to tobacco habits.
Textbooks for the curriculum have been printed and the board-game sets are ready,according to coordinators for the curriculum,who said that some 60 district-level trainers from Anand,Kheda,Banaskantha,Rajkot,Surat and Tapi are expected to undergo a three-day training at the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH),Gandhinagar,next week.
The curriculum will be implemented in standards 6 and 8 since preteens have been found to be the likeliest to try using tobacco.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009-10 found that roughly one in every five teenagers between 13 and 15 years of age consume tobacco in Gujarat,with 41 per cent of all tobacco users starting before reaching 18 years of age.
As most schools are in rural areas,Gujarati has been used in all the materials,including board-games,which state coordinator Mayur Trivedi,currently an assistant professor at the IIPH,described as essentially games with lots of graphics.
The 480 schools were randomly selected and the principals have given their assent. The 60-odd trainers we will be training next week will then train teachers and the peer leaders in their districts schools, said Trivedi.
Besides the textbooks and board-games,the curriculum will include two other forms of campaigning one is a set of postcards that will be sent to parents to sensitise them about tobacco use.
Parents and relatives are a target group since 22% of all teenage tobacco users have family members who smoke openly at home. This figure excludes smokeless tobacco use.
Another strategy is establishing what are called peer-led health activism groups in each of these classrooms in the 480 schools. Students who do not use tobacco in any form would be selected as leaders of these peer groups,which are expected to extend peer pressure on others to stay away from tobacco.
The pilot project part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Strengthening of Tobacco control Efforts through innovative Partnerships and Strategies (STEPS) will undergo an effectiveness evaluation after one academic session,and the government would decide how to take it forward.
The subject will be treated as an extra-curricular one.