School is back in session so my counterpart and I are back in the schools doing weekly health lessons. Today I actually remembered to bring a camera, and it’s about time I do another blog, so I decided to write about today’s lesson.
Each Wednesday morning all the schools in Adabokrom hold worship. Sometimes preachers come and deliver a sermon, but other times, like today, its all student led and mostly filled with singing, dancing, and playing instruments. Since all the classes are doing the same thing, it’s a convenient time to hold lessons with the whole school directly afterwards, since they are already together and not occupied in other sessions.
Today’s lesson was about HIV and AIDS. It can be a touchy subject in Ghana, so we had to go to the headmasters a few days ahead of time and let them know this was the topic we wanted to talk about and make sure it would be acceptable. I have heard from other volunteers that they have been told to only teach the A and B of the ABCs when it comes to sex ed in schools (A=Abstinence, B=Be Faithful to Your Partner, and C=Condom Use). Thankfully, my headmasters were more open-minded and welcomed us to deliver the talk.
We technically have two Jr. High Schools in Adabokrom, but they share a building so I generally think of it as just one big JHS. After worship finished this morning, 250 students took their chairs outside under the trees to wait for our lesson. We started out by asking what the students already know about HIV. They had some knowledge, and some especially bright students knew quite a lot. To start, I asked, “What is HIV?” Everyone stared for a minute, then a boy stood up and said “Human Immunodeficiency Virus.” I was pretty impressed. They struggled a bit more when I asked them to explain what each word of that meant, but we eventually got there.
Then I handed out 15 pieces of paper on which I wrote statements like “In Ghana, 300,000 people have AIDS,” “Africa has the highest rate of AIDS in the world,” “Traditional healers (herbalists) can cure AIDS” and “You can be cured of AIDS by having sex with a virgin.” I asked the students to read their statement out loud and then to identify if it was true or false, and why. Then as a group they discussed each statement, with CK answering questions in Twi to make sure they fully understood.
As we were finishing that section, one of the nurses from the clinic came to do condom demonstrations. I had planned on this happening at the end, after we had fully discussed the dangers of HIV to show the students there are ways of preventing it, but it ended up working out well. If nothing else, it brought lots of laughter to the students in between serious sessions. Honestly, this nurse is not my favorite person. She is very cold, which is really rare for a Ghanaian, and she has quite a superiority complex over most of her patients, which I hate. But her lack of sense of humor and her high self-confidence made her the perfect person to demonstrate how to use a condom in front of 250 awkward teenagers. They giggled, and at times roared, with awkward laughter as she very explicitly showed them how to insert a female condom, and she did it all with a straight face, loud voice, and expert knowledge. And when things got too out of hand she had no problem being authoritative enough to bring everyone back under control. All I can say is I’m glad it was her and not me up there!
Then CK did the demonstration of the male condom, and we ended by doing an exercise to show how quickly HIV can spread without your knowledge. We selected 16 students and handed them folded slips of paper and told them not to look at their papers. Then we told them to walk around and shake hands with three others. Afterwards, we had them look at their papers; three had “X” written on their slips. “X” meant they were infected with HIV. Then we asked who shook hands with these three people. Eight more raised their hands. Then we asked who had a “C” written on their paper—one girl did. We told them that girl was protected because her “C” meant she used a condom; the rest weren’t so lucky, they were now infected too. That meant 10 out of the 16 were now infected with HIV because they didn’t know they had the virus and they had unprotected sex. That sobered them up quite a bit. Obviously, this is no where close to actual numbers of infection rates, but it was a good visual for the students to realize how quickly a disease could theoretically spread.
For some reason, maybe because most of the lesson was in twi, I didn’t feel nearly as awkward or embarrassed as I thought I would teaching about sex, HIV and condoms. I actually had a really good time, and I think the students learned a lot. We told the students were they can buy condoms, and CK told them that if they were too embarrassed to go buy them themselves that he would buy them for anyone who wanted, as long as they brought the money first. Overall, it was a good day in the classroom.