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Virtual lessons in harsh realities

Nematollah is an Afghani boy born in the country's north-central region. Only 11, he has lost his mother to illness and a brother to compulsory military service.

His father Hamid is a stonecutter earning $38 a month. His diet is at subsistence levels and the family's standard of living is well below even Afghanistan's meagre average. Now he faces a dilemma - a work opportunity has arisen but it means leaving school. You decide.

Nematollah is just one among dozens of characters that UK pupils can now "create" using the Real Lives software from US-based Educational Simulations. A detailed file page provides everything from an accumulative diary recording the events that overtake them and, as characters age, the increasing number of decisions they must make. And as these accumulate so their personal "resources" (health, happiness, knowledge, etc) are shown to increase or diminish.

National and international events are mixed in with the individual's personal data, enabling students to gain an increasingly rich appreciation of their character.

Teachers wanting to encourage empathy alongside a better grasp of development issues across the globe will find Real Lives an invaluable tool. It has applications in geography, citizenship and RE, as well as offering students the chance to experience vicariously the consequences of personal decisions that will enhance PSHE provision.

* Real Lives is distributed by AVP.

Real Lives costs pound;69 plus VAT for two PC CD-Roms and Teacher Pack AVP Stand IT50

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