HIV Education Outreach Programme for Schools in Kumasi

Written by: Gordon Pearce, Kumasi District Co-Ordinator / Volunteer

The recent May 1st celebrations marked the last day of the Easter vacation for schools in the Ashanti region, and the beginning of the new term enabled the continuation of Light for Children’s programme of HIV-related educational outreach activities. Over the past week LIFOC staff have visited three different schools in the Atonsu-Agogo area of Southern Kumasi, engaging in a combination of HIV/AIDS behaviour change presentations and associated follow-up sessions.

On Tuesday May 15th, Junior Secondary aged pupils (11 to 15 years) at Atonsu Metropolitan Authority School A participated in an interactive exercise using the Journey of Hope learning approach, which employs an imaginary fleet of ‘survival boats’ crossing a treacherous stretch of water to reach a distant tropical island as a metaphor for the methods which young people can use to help them avoid HIV and achieve their life goals. The boats represent abstinence, faithfulness and condom use, the three most effective ways to prevent transmission of the AIDS virus through sexual intercourse (the most common mode of transmission), while the risks posed by HIV, STIs and teenage pregnancy to those who fall into the water are illustrated with crocodiles lurking beneath the surface.

The idea is to help children to think about what will make them happy in the long term so that they are less likely to jeopardise their future chances in life by engaging in high-risk behaviour at a young age. It is hoped that the encouragement of pupils to take an active role in choosing the right path for them, rather than just being passive recipients of a lecture, will result in them adopting safer behaviour patterns on a more permanent basis.

As part of the interactive element in Light for Children’s education outreach work, pupils are asked at the end of the session to produce a short piece of work in the form of a poem, story, essay or picture which expresses some of their views on HIV and related sexual health issues. On May 10th and May 15th LIFOC visited Atonsu Presbyterian School and the adjacent Metro Authority School B to present prizes for the best entries and carry out a short follow-up activity.

Each winner received a pack of exercise books and stationary to help them in their studies as a token of appreciation for their outstanding compositions. Excerpts from all the pieces had been collated by LIFOC volunteers into colourful posters which were presented to the schools for display in classrooms and communal areas, allowing the children to see a tangible result from their efforts and providing them with a resource to help remember and reinforce the key messages addressed during the outreach sessions. In addition, the prize-winning work was word-processed and mounted to form part of the wall display so that the authors could enjoy recognition for their achievements. Light for Children staff discussed with students the main ideas which emerged from their contributions and explained the thinking behind expressing these themes in poster form.

LIFOC paid a further visit to Yaa Achiaa Girls’ School on Wednesday May 16th, in a continuation of our organisation’s links with this establishment. Previously pupils in JSS years 2 and 3 had taken part in activities with Light for Children staff, so this time it was the turn of a JSS 1 class to get involved with the Journey of Hope presentation.

The girls proved very receptive to the issues touched on therein, and were keen to contribute their ideas and opinions; as in the Presby and Metro schools the pupils were set an assignment to produce a piece of work expressing their viewpoint, which they will complete over the course of the next few days. Light for Children will continue to return to Yaa Achiaa over the coming weeks to present the Journey of Hope activity to more JSS 1 children and award prizes for the best essays, poems and pictures.

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