Boundbrook Primary School Uses Puppets for HIV/AIDS Education.
A group of five children, 8-10 years old, from Boundbrook Primary School in Portland, walked away with the top prize in their category, in the Lesson for Life 2005 “Make the Promise” competition, organised by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture and supported by UNICEF Jamaica.
It was the school’s first time entering the competition, but their lively puppet show teaching about the modes of transmission of HIV and protecting the rights of people living with HIV caught the judges’ attention and earned them first place. Boundbrook Primary was the only school which chose puppets to convey their message.
Lesson for Life is a global campaign, organised by the Global Movement for Children, that gives children an opportunity to discuss the prevention and impact of HIV and AIDS and encourages them to take action in their communities to help prevent the spread of HIV and support those who are affected. In Jamaica the campaign is conducted by the HIV/AIDS Response Team of The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture.
Guidance counsellor Jacqueline Simpson said the Lesson for Life activity packet and brochures, as well as the invitation to enter the competition, were sent to the school by the Ministry of Education. She took the decision to have the students enter with a puppet show.
“I am not versed in drama and I personally like puppet shows because usually people like puppets and respond well to them and I have worked with puppets in my church group,” she explains.
Once the decision was taken and the students began working on the production, the entire school became involved: “The students were very excited and they helped to make the puppets using socks and cardboard. When we had rehearsals the entire school came out to join in and watch us practice,” Ms. Simpson adds.
Boundbrook’s storyline for the puppet show addressed issues which Jamaican children may face in school. It was about a little girl whose parents are HIV positive and who is also HIV positive. She faces discrimination from the mother of a schoolmate who does not want to send her child to school with an HIV positive student.
“Eventually though the child tells the parent what she has learnt in school about HIV and AIDS and how it is transmitted. The mother learns that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact. Our aim was to show that AIDS cannot be transmitted via casual contact and to show that you must not discriminate against those who have AIDS. We want to sensitise them that children will have AIDS and will come to school but that you must learn to treat them with care and respect, just like we treat everyone.”
The guidance counsellor and the principal from Boundbrook Primary school have participated in the Education Ministry’s sensitisation sessions on the National Policy for HIV/AIDS Management in Schools, an activity which is also supported by UNICEF. The counsellor says the school is also working to sensitise parents about HIV/AIDS issues, particularly through the Parent Teachers’ Association.
For students, HIV/AIDS awareness sessions at the school focus on helping children understand what HIV/AIDS is, how it is transmitted and how to protect themselves when they get older. “The primary message now is abstinence because these are very young children,” Ms. Simpson says.
Now, the entire Boundbrook family is justifiably proud of the trophy and plaque they won for their first entry to the Lessons for Life competition and are planning already for the 2006 contest.
“The competition has been most rewarding. We have all learnt so much more,” Ms. Simpson states. “We have learnt about living with persons living with HIV and AIDS and how to prevent exposure to the virus. It was also a good experience for the children who were able to travel to Emancipation Park in Kingston and show off their skills. They can teach others what they have learnt as well…..Hopefully next year we will be able to do even better!”