Awareness Sessions by School Students (HIV/AIDS)
By Hanadi Abu Taqa
QALQILYA, 16 May 2005 - Sounds of excitement and laughter, with young girls moving in a crowded room, trying to get ready for a play on HIV/AIDS at Fatima Sroor High School in Qalqilya.
The school was lively as the young girls were moving chairs, tables to make room for the play. Raja’, a 14 year old girl, being one of the facilitators for the awareness raising sessions on HIV/AIDS, meant a lot. “I am very excited to be part of this project. Hopefully, it can make us learn more about HIV/AIDs while having fun” said Raja’
As the play started, the room suddenly became so quiet. All school girls were anxiously waiting for this educational play. Raja’ along with her friends presented the information on protection and prevention from HIV/AIDS in the form of a play. They informed their peers about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and the means of transmission including safety measures.
As the play ended, sounds of clapping filled the room and hands were lifted in an attempt to pose questions. Some questions were posed on modes of transmission of HIV/AIDS: ”How HIV/AIDS is transmitted to others ?” asked 14-year old Bana. Other questions were on counseling and providing support to those infected with HIV/AIDS “If someone is infected with HIV/AIDS, what will you do to support her/him?’ asked 15-year old Asmahan
The girls were trained on various life skills during the sessions including leadership skills, decision making, communication skills, and team work, “I have learned a lot from being a facilitator” said 14 year old Meenas. By being trained as a facilitator, Raja’ and Meenas and other young girls were able to develop a wider knowledge about the topic of HIV/AIDS. They also acquired strong leadership and communication skills. “I can communicate better with my peers” added Meenas.
For Tamara, a 15 year old girl in ninth grade, who acted as another facilitator in the awareness raising sessions, the experience has added more to her knowledge about the disease “I know how to deal with an infected person now, I know more about the disease which make me not afraid of the person who carries it.”
These activities were very much welcomed by the management of the school. The school principal Afaf, strongly believes that awareness raising sessions are crucial for young girls. “These young girls will be the leaders and educators of the future, it is important they acquire good communication, and leadership skills. They have to learn how to deal with all human beings without prejudice” said Afaf.
UNICEF supported this project as part of the ‘a pilot awareness raising project targeting adolescent’ with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Palestinian Medical Relief Committees. The project started in 9 schools and 6 youth clubs, reaching more than 4,500 adolescents with funds from the United Nations Fund (UNF).
This project came as a result of the National Youth Survey, which confirmed the limited knowledge of young people on prevention methods of HIV/AIDS. In preparation for the project, 9 Palestinian representatives from MOH, MOEHE and Palestinian Medical Relief Committees participated in a sub-regional Training of Trainers workshop on sexual and reproductive health with emphasis on HIV/AIDS in Jordan.
Following the training, the 9 trainers implemented sensitization workshops for 100 MOEHE officials, school teachers, counselors, parents and youth club workers to ensure that a conducive environment is created in the schools and youth clubs to learn about HIV/AIDS. This was followed by the training of 216 peer educators who reached more than 4,500 adolescents with key messages on ways of prevention against HIV/AIDS. This project will be expanded to 50 schools during the year 2006.