Young people learn to protect themselves against HIV in the classroom
Maputo, 22 February 2008 – Every week, activists from Kindlimuka – an association of people living with HIV – visit primary schools in Maputo to discuss with students ways they can protect themselves against HIV. Through lively debates and discussions, children learn the life skills they need to put what they know into practice and make informed choices.
But it’s not all talk. The prevention programme in school includes interactive theatre work that enables children to identify and prevent various risk situations.
Today, the 5th and 6th grades students at 7 de Setembro Primary School return quickly to their classroom after the mid-morning break, anxiously waiting for the 28-year-old Kindlimuka activist Francisco Magaia to arrive.
But to the children’s surprise, when the classroom door opens, a group of older students rush into the classroom, speaking and gesticulating loudly. It doesn’t take long for the class to realise that this is part of skit illustrating the challenges young people face in their day-to-day lives.
Under the direction of the activist Magaia, the young actors perform several stories illustrating risky behaviours that children of their age face at home, at school and in their community.
It is estimated that about 8.9 per cent of girls aged between 15 and 19 and 2.9 per cent of boys in the same age group are HIV-positive in Mozambique.
The Prevention Programme in schools aims to reach children aged between 10 and 14 – the age group known as the “Window of Hope”– by providing them with information and giving them the knowledge and skills required to prevent sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
“This is the highest risk group,” explains Simião Vasco, Coordinator of the Kindlimuka’s School Prevention HIV Programme. “Our work in schools seeks to guarantee they have sufficient information and skills so that they can make the best choices in their lives.”
Children and young people are encouraged to participate actively. Vasco explains that this participatory approach guarantees that the children also learn to pass the message on to other children in the school and in their communities.
The Kindlimuka activists not only organise debates and activities in the classroom but they also help to create students clubs in which children learn new life skills through debates, sports, cultural activities and theatre.
UNICEF has been providing technical and financial support to the HIV Prevention School Programme since 1999. The support includes the training of activists, the production of information, education and communication materials, and the creation of school clubs among others. The programme is currently implemented in all provinces in the country through 10 Associations of People Living with HIV that form part of a nationwide network.
Between 2005 and 2007, the programme has reached nearly one million children – of whom 52 per cent are girls. Some 918 activists were trained in teaching life skills, and 1,269 school clubs were set up throughout the country.