Knowledge of Sexual and reproductive health (SRH), including HIV/AIDS, is fundamentally important to a healthy life, especially among the youth. Consequently, the modern world expects teachers to shed more light on SRH and HIV/AIDS, and other relevant topics in their classrooms. Due to cultural sensitivities, teachers are not freed up to tackle such topics openly and decisively. Worse still, even the general teaching approach spelt in the secondary school curriculum, in this case, leaves a lot to be desired. This all works to the disadvantage of the youth who receive little accurate information about sexuality. This can leave them susceptible to coercion, abuse, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
It is against this background that the Make Art Stop Aids (MASA) programme under Art and Global Health Center Africa engaged secondary school teachers on SRH topics. This was done through a workshop at Mpasa Secondary School in Phalombe district, from Thursday 5th April to Friday 6th April, 2018. It attracted 16 teachers from Mpasa and New Foundation Secondary schools who were equipped with new a skill set on how to teach SRH topics in their classrooms. Against the Teacher Centered Learning Approach which the teachers use, ArtGlo empowered the teachers to come up with creative art-based approaches on teaching the SRH subjects. With guidance from the workshop facilitators the teachers came up with Role plays, Forum theatre, miming, topical games and storytelling, just to mention a few. Teachers were able to discover new effective ways on tackling sexuality topics in their classrooms while engaging with issues in an entertaining and enriching way.
The workshop was part of the MASA Youth Project, which is using participatory arts approaches to engage tertiary and secondary students around SRH and HIV issues in Zomba, Machinga and Phalombe districts. Teacher Training workshops are designed to complement this work by giving teachers the skills to use these methods themselves.
At the end of the two day workshop, art based approaches were recognized and adopted as a superlative alternative for SRH lessons.
“I have been teaching life skills for four years at Mpasa secondary school. Teaching some topics about sexuality in vernacular has not been easy. A lot of us (teachers) have been unable to explain certain things and concepts verbally because it appears extremely vulgar. However, with the art based methods learnt here such as theatre forum, poetry, sexticulate games and role play, my students will definitely understand the said topics with ease. I have noticed and identified certain techniques to be uniquely ideal for certain topics in the syllabus, and I have classified them accordingly. In mentioning, I had problems explaining LGBTI sexuality in my classroom and students were left with many questions. But I believe things would be different in the coming weeks. I now have a basket of techniques to select from and use” Said Joel Kapakasa, a teacher at Mpasa secondary