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Classroom drama and discussion teach young people about HIV in Mozambique

© UNICEF Mozambique/2008/Machiana
Jessica (right), 10, performs the role of a young girl who became pregnant, in a play presented as part of the UNICEF-supported HIV/AIDS School Awareness Programme.

By Emidio Machiana

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 28 February 2008 – Every week, activists from Kindlimuka, an association of people living with HIV, visit primary schools in Maputo to discuss with students the ways they can protect themselves against HIV.

Through lively debates and discussions, children learn the life skills they need to make informed choices. The UNICEF-assisted HIV Prevention School Programme also includes interactive theatre work that enables children to identify and avoid various risk situations.

And the need for prevention is clear: It is estimated that almost 11 per cent of Mozambican females between 15 and 24 years of age, and nearly 4 per cent of males in the same age group, are living with HIV.

Preventing risky behaviour

Today, the fifth- and sixth-grade students at 7 de Setembro Primary School return to their classroom after the morning break to wait for a 28-year-old Kindlimuka activist, Francisco Magaia, to arrive.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2008/Machiana
Helton (centre), 11, performs the role of a child orphaned by AIDS. His peers are offering their support in this skit.

When the classroom door opens, however, it is not Mr. Magaia but rather a group of older students who rush into the classroom, launching into a dramatic skit illustrating the challenges young people face in their daily lives. Under the direction of Mr. Magaia, the young actors perform several stories about risky behaviours involving children their age at home, at school and in the community.

“I play the part of a girl who became pregnant when she was very young, and the play shows the consequences of this in her life,” says Jessica, 10. “The message I wanted to transmit to everyone is that we should only have sex after ending our studies, and when we want to start a family.”

‘Window of hope’

UNICEF has been providing technical and financial support to the HIV Prevention School Programme since 1999, training over 900 activists and setting up 1,269 school clubs. The programme is currently being implemented in all of the country’s provinces through 10 Associations of People Living with HIV, which are part of a nationwide network. 

The prevention programme aims to reach the ‘window of hope’– children aged between 10 and 14.

“This is the highest-risk group,” explains Kindlimuka’s HIV prevention coordinator, Simião Vasco. “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 in the programme, and to pass prevention messages on to their peers at school and in the community.



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