Why we work in schools

It is a good way to access as many young people as possible. Young people, after all, spend a large percentage of their time at school.
What we hope to achieve by working in schools

  • help reduce HIV incidence among young people
  • increase the capacity of teachers to become agents of change in their communities
  • equip young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to face the challenges in their lives and, ultimately, to make safe sex choices

Who we work with and why?

Our training programme is aimed at senior phase learners/students who are usually between 11 to 14 years of age. These young people are on the cusp of adolescence and need to be given opportunities to learn about themselves, their choices and challenges. We have specifically targeted teachers who teach in any of the following three subject areas: Natural Science, Life Orientation and Arts and Culture.

However our materials have been written for all teachers and where possible we encourage a cross curricular approach to HIV/AIDS education. While we see value in volunteers or other nongovernmental organisations working in school, we recognize the ongoing presence of teachers and feel that there is always at least one or two teachers in a school who feels committed and determined to make a difference in their classroom and school. We like to involve principals and members of the governing body as this helps strengthen the role of the teacher in order to make it a school focus rather than an individual teacher focus!

We know that most of our activities can be used and adapted for older children and even adults.

What are the main features of our programme:

The materials and methods used by eMPathy Trust have been approved by both the National and Provincial Departments of Education in South Africa. We custom design our training to suit the needs of the particular school however these are the key aspects of our programme to date.

  • Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS across the curriculum
    A wide range of activities have been included so that a maths, geography, language and history teacher will be able to find something relevant to their curriculum and of interest to their students.
  • Comprehensive approach to sexuality education
    We do not want young people to equate sex with HIV/AIDS. Sexuality education needs to educate young people about sex and sexuality as well as the need to know and understand themselves, to be confident and to think about what relationships mean for them so that they are able to make ‘healthy, and informed choices’.It is not only important to prevent further HIV infection, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies but also to give young people the confidence to choose:

    • to delay their sexual debut until they are ready or married
    • to refuse sex
    • to negotiate safer sex
    • to develop a healthy and positive outlook towards sex
  • Psychosocial Approach
    HIV/AIDS has a far reaching impact on young people, their families and communities. Students may drop out of school, become depressed, withdrawn or even angry at their peers and teachers. Teachers are encouraged to find ways of identifying and responding to children in need of care and support. Therefore schools are to be seen as centres of care and support (see below).
  • Schools as centre of care and support
    Schools offer both resources and opportunities for taking care of the needs of students and their families. Through creating meaningful links to government and nongovernmental organisations schools are further strengthen to take on this task.
  • Participatory teaching methods
    We draw from wide pool of ideas and methods to engage participants directly and imaginatively with our materials. PTM value the students’ experiences and needs and is an excellent way to help them personalize, critically reflect and address personal, and social forces surrounding HIV/AIDS. We particularly like using art, drama, storytelling along with biology experiments!
  • Creating a safe and supportive space
    Specific attention and skills are role modelled and made conscious to the teachers so that they too will know how to respond to difficult, uncomfortable feelings that may arise in a classroom or at break.
  • Personal and professional role and responsibility
    We take time to explore the different values, attitudes and beliefs that teachers have about key topics such as talking about sex and the cultural myths and beliefs about HIV/AIDS. We acknowledge the different systems of knowledge that co-exist in the region and find ways to help young people make up their own minds about this critical information. We have found that most teachers find it very embarrassing to talk about sex. We look for practical ways to help them overcome their embarrassment and examine the barriers that prevent their becoming effective HIV/AIDs educators
  • Creating sustainable structures
    The establishment of active steering committees made up of different stakeholders within the school communities. This promotes ownership of the work and an ongoing engagement with important matters related to HIV/AIDS.
  • Ongoing evaluation and monitoring
    This is built into all of our programmes. We continually assess the impact of the programme on the knowledge, attitudes and skills of both students and teachers and improve and refine our training programmes and support interventions.
  • Teacher support
    A series of structured school visits are provided to a representative sample of schools.