“Youth is such an exciting time. I want to encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities around you…However, childhood also has its challenges. Too often the dreams of our youth are compromised by things like teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, intergenerational sex, and especially HIV and AIDS. The information you need to protect yourself is available. It is up to you to take action.”
-Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae
The government of Botswana has designated March as the Month of Youth Against AIDS , or MYAA. During this month, young people across the country collaborate with a diverse range of partners to engage in educational activities and informed discussions revolving around HIV and AIDS in their respective communities.
In commemoration of this year’s MYAA, we would like to highlight one such inspiring story. The Kgale Hill Junior Secondary School (JSS) in Gaborone, Botswana, showed the video version—specifically designed for Botswana-- of the TeachAIDS software to 735 of their students. Aside from showing the TeachAIDS material as part of an organized classroom education initiative, the school also uploaded the educational content onto every computer in the school’s computer lab, making the material accessible in perpetuity to students who wanted to learn more and/or review the content during their spare time. The school also made a point to send the link to the parents of all of their students, enabling those with Internet to download the materials, educate themselves about the topic and engage in further conversation with their children at home.
Kgale Hill JSS educator Ms. Mercy Peole was pleased with the level of dedication her students demonstrated while watching the TeachAIDS animations. In particular, she noted that the students were deeply touched by the animation’s opening “Message of Hope” from Former President Festus Mogae”, who serves as a Special Advisor to TeachAIDS. Mercy described that, “you could hear [a] pin drop in that class room, with [students] glued…to the big screen…eager to hear what the former President has to say to him/her! Powerful message indeed.” In President Mogae’s message, he asks youth to empower themselves through education and offers inspiration to the people of his nation, and throughout Africa, to take control of their own health and destinies.
In this spirit, Mercy described how one of the most powerful moments of the lesson were the personal pledges her students made after watching the animated production. The students observed a moment of silence during which time they were challenged to quietly make a personal commitment to protect themselves and others from the transmission of the virus, taking ownership of the TeachAIDS message that “HIV prevention begins with me.”
“They are committing to zero transmission lifestyles…by making a personal pledge like this there is no pressure from the outside to make the commitment since the learners are each making a commitment with the 'self.' This can strengthen self-management and accountability to oneself [and] hence ownership that indeed 'in my life HIV prevention begins with me.’”
-Mercy Peole, educator at Kgale Hill JSS
TeachAIDS has a strong history and collaborative relationship with the government of Botswana in their effort to combat the spread of HIV in their country. Several years ago, when their government reached out to TeachAIDS to build interactive educational tools together, a special partnership was forged between TeachAIDS, the Ministry of Education, Stepping Stones International, and UNICEF, to help stop the HIV fatigue plaguing its citizens. While over one-fifth of adults in Botswana were HIV positive, citizens were growing tired of hearing the same HIV mass media messaging through billboards, television commercials, and pamphlets. Scientific research indicated that education provided to them in this repetitive and fragmented format was becoming increasingly ineffective.
Internationally recognized award-winning hip-hop artists, Scar, Zeus, and Tref, along with radio icon, Jazzelle, and government leaders gave voice to characters and a script tailored to reflect the cultural preferences of the people of Botswana. The animations were customized in both English and Setswana, the country’s two official languages. Botswana’s Deputy Permanent Secretary went on to approve TeachAIDS software for every school in the nation and collaborate with local educators and administrators to ensure the material would be actively distributed and used in classrooms. To further promote these distribution efforts, the Ministry named June 15th as “TeachAIDS Day.”
TeachAIDS is pleased to support MYAA and the outstanding efforts of Kgale Hill JSS. We wish you, and other similar institutions, the very best as you continue to arm our young people with a sense of ownership over their own health and well being.