China’s vocational schools play a key role in reaching prospective young migrant workers

Article | 04 June 2010

In China, millions of workers migrate every year from poor rural areas to seek work in manufacturing zones. The Pearl River Delta in the province of Guangdong is the largest manufacturing centre in the country, employing over 60 million rural migrant workers alone. Due to lack of sexual and reproductive health education, young migrant workers faced increased risk of unexpected pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

To mainstream HIV education and mitigate its impact, the ILO worked with the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security with financial support from the U.S. Departement of Labor to integrate HIV prevention into the core curriculum of vocational schools.

An example is the vocational school of Zhaoqing, near the Pearl River Delta. In this school young migrants aged 14 to 19 receive training on HIV prevention in addition to core technical skills.

Many young people at the school are reaping the benefits of greater openness and access to information. According to one female student, “At the beginning of HIV training I felt very nervous and shy. After the teacher's explanation I felt natural and accepted what she said. People with HIV are not dangerous and they don't deserve any discrimination.”

Using the example of Zhaoqing and other similar schools, the ILO project has set out to reach as many of the 18 million students in the country’s 16,000 vocational schools as possible. Programmes have been set up in 1,000 vocational schools and over 2,000 teachers were trained in delivering participatory training.

According to Richard Howard, ILO HIV/AIDS Specialist for Asia and the Pacific, "it is estimated that through training in the vocational schools, 5 million students will be reached in China over the next five years”.

 “It is refreshing and encouraging to see teachers and students interact in a lively and imaginative way about rather private matters”, says the UNAIDS Country Coordinator in China. “Programmes like the one supported by ILO can serve as an excellent model to reach tens of millions of young people and their partners in China, right at the age when they are most prone to behaviours that put them at risk of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.”