Our Education Department delivers two core programmes aimed at educating school children about HIV/AIDS: Life Skills and Peer Education.
By investing in the education and development of children from primary school age upwards, we aim to develop a generation of young South Africans who:
1. Have the knowledge and skills needed to protect themselves from HIV infection and to make wise choices about their health and futures.
2. Have the confidence and motivation to apply themselves academically, to matriculate and to ultimately reach their full potential as the future leaders of South Africa.
3. Have positive role models and a supportive environment in which they can thrive.
4. Can act as agents for change within their schools and communities, leading by example and being advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS and associated stigma.
Ultimately, our Life Skills & Peer Education programmes are a key component for achieving our vision of an HIV-free generation and an AIDS-free Valley of 1000 Hills.
Life Skills Programme
We are delivering Life Skills education courses in five primary schools, reaching 500 children across grades five to seven. Our Life Skills curriculum, developed in-house by our Education Team, addresses HIV/AIDS, STIs, AIDS-related stigma, risk-taking behaviour, goal setting, vision for one’s future, and other issues that we feel are impacting on youth. Our facilitators visit each class twice per month during the school term for a 45 minute session. The programme includes performances during which the students use dance, poetry and song to communicate messages about HIV to their peers. A small number of the top performing students are selected to attend a two-day outdoor adventure camp at the year’s end, as a way of encouraging them and recognising their outstanding academic achievements. We also run an annual Positive Lifestyles event in August that brings together all students from the five schools, to compete in music, dance, drama and poetry - using the arts to communicate messages and teachings from the Life Skills programme. The schools we are working in report decreased rates of teenage pregnancy and an improvement in academic results, as our course emphasises the important of having a vision for one’s future and the role that education plays in that future.
Peer Education Programme
In 2017 we entered into a partnered with GOLD Peer Education to implement a peer education programme in three schools. GOLD provides the curriculum and the peer education model - which is evidence based and equipped with impressive monitoring and evaluation processes. We have placed full-time facilitators in each of the three schools, and collectively they will train over 100 teenage peer educators per year. Peer educators are from grades eight to ten and are recommended as Peer Educators by their teachers. They are the natural influencers or leaders in their grades. The training and mentoring provided by the facilitators enables the youth to perform the role of a peer educator – educating their peers and social circles about HIV/AIDS and related issues. Throughout the year these students are called on by their teachers and the community to deliver talks about HIV/AIDS, to support students who are going through difficult times, and to be active in the community encouraging sick people to access help and speaking out against AIDS-related stigma. We close the year by hosting an annual peer education camp, providing the peer educators with an amazing experience, for many their first time away from home, and an intense provision of peer education trainings. We also run career-expos for the high school students, helping them to become aware of the career options that exist, and of how to access tertiary bursaries and funding opportunties.
All the schools that we are working in are in underdeveloped, poverty-torn communities, and many of the children are orphans. We try to assist the schools through other HACT programmes as well, such as arranging for the schools to receive vegetable gardens, and organising HIV Testing and Wellness Days at the schools.