Evidence shows that the majority of Ethiopian youth enter Secondary school with low-risk behaviors of acquiring HIV. However, they possess little knowledge on HIV prevention or sexual and reproductive health issues and lack the skills and social support to make decisions that protect their sexual and reproductive health.
TEA in collaboration with the consortium of Youth Network for Sustainable Development (YNSD), the North Shoa Zone Education office, the office of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs Department, and other different youth school clubs initiated a In-School Youth program that works to reduce the risk of HIV infection among youth transitioning from primary school to secondary and preparatory school. It aims at establishing a comprehensive HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health program in secondary schools.
This program seeks to increase knowledge about Sexually Transmitted Disease, build skills to recognize and prevent behaviors that put youth at risk of HIV infection, and encourage youth to make healthy decisions. Based on awareness of healthy behavior change, the program emphasizes on delaying the initiation of sex among youth and those who choose to have sex to consistently use condoms. The program uses role-playing, experiential activities, dances, stories, songs, debates, and essays, as well as drama to enhance students' confidence and their ability to avoid risky situations. The overall goal of the program is to prevent STD through mass mobilization.
The program’s primary objectives include:
i. Increasing behavior change communications capacity at secondary schools
ii. Improving behavioral outcomes related to HIV and AIDS and sexual and reproductive health issues among in-school youth
iii. Disseminating high-impact behavior change tools and approaches that can be adapted to meet the needs of in-school youth
iv. Strengthening the school capacity to implement and monitor high-quality, skills-based HIV prevention education
To meet these objectives, the program designed a heart connection tour team, an approach that places youth at the center of the social structure and focuses on engaging in the mass awareness raising programs to influence in the school community. The program has been working with four secondary schools in four woredas of North Shoa zone, Amhara region.
The program approach principles:
• Integration of education and behavior change communication
• Peer-led approach
• Recognition of individual and collective achievement
• School Community outreach
TEA strives to achieve SRH service (Assess, Service and Knowledge) ASK Programme through community mobilization and ensuring their ownership, one-to-one and peer-to-peer learning, wide-ranging: from awareness rising to preventing future infections and reducing stigma. However, for this program TEA believed to have been addressed more than two thousands of school youth community members through HIV and AIDS awareness-raising knowledge and skill transformation by mass mobilizations activities.
In this project, the direct beneficiaries are young boys and girls above 14 years aged in four schools; while the indirect beneficiaries are the school teachers and the local community at large. Dance4Life project has four major steps that inspire, educate, and activate the targeted young people to become agents of change. The four targeted schools are;
1. Debre-Berhan Debre-Eba secondary and preparatory School,
2. MojanaWoderaWoreda, Seladngay Secondary and Preparatory school,
3. Menz Mama Midr, Molale Secondary and Preparatory school and
4. Menzekeya, Wogera Secondary and Preparatory school.
Major Activities Conducted
Having assessed all the needs and current realities of the young people in the targeted schools, the following major activities have been carried-out in collaboration with YNSD.
1. Heart-Connection-Tour (HCT)
As planned in the project, the first activity to be conducted was to organize and manage Heart-Connection-Tour (HCT) events that mainly aimed at introducing and inspiring the targeted young boys and girls about Dance4Live and its major essences. Thus, TEA was able to organize and manage four HCTs in the targeted schools thereby reach 4,200 school youths. The rationale for carrying-out these HCTs was to create awareness and teach the young people about sexual reproductive health through entertainment. In doing so, TEA commissioned 10 Dance4Life agents (that were well educated and capable enough) so that they would entertain the targeted young people via music and dance performances thereby conveying the relevant messages.
2. School HIV and AIDS mass awareness raising activities
Having performed the HCTs, in which the events helped us to identify and select 4, 200 dedicated attentive and active young boys and girls participants from the students. Thus, 4,200 students have been well trained on comprehensive sexual reproductive health and STD. In this awareness rising with mass mobilization, students were sensitized on various issues such as;
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS
- Sexuality, Reproductive Health and Family planning
- Peer pressure
a) Knowledge- Mere evaluation showed that participants' net change in knowledge regarding STD was significantly greater than that of comparison students.
b) Attitudes and perceptions- Significantly, favorable net change was observed in the participants' beliefs about their susceptibility to HIV, attitudes about the benefits of using such kind of entertained programs for a purpose, and self-efficacy related to STD prevention.
c) Behavior changes, including
Delayed initiation of sexual intercourse
Reduced number of sex partners
Reduced number of high risk sexual partners
School community mobilization leading to reduced incidence of STDs
d) More than 4,500 (2,172 girls) students and government sector HIV and AIDS prevention focal persons, woreda Health and HAPCO officers were reached through dance for life conversation and sensitization training programs.
e) Adolescent girls and boys received awareness program on HIV and AIDS and STD
Schools are vital partners in helping young people take responsibility for their health and adopt health-enhancing attitudes and behaviors that can last a lifetime.