USHAPE (Uganda Sexual Health and Pastoral Education) is an integrated project operating in and around the hospitals (Bwinidi and Kisiizi), and in the schools of Kanungu; its central aim is to promote good sexual and reproductive health through both education and improved health service provision.
The aim of the Pastoral Lead Network developed by USHAPE is to train teachers to provide good pastoral education to school children and adolescents. An early initiative has been to run a ‘Sugar Daddy Awareness’ campaign, providing lessons in primary schools to make boys and girls more aware of the danger of Sugar Daddies and Mummies, not least around the transmission of HIV.
‘Sugar Daddy’ awareness lessons start with the showing of the UNICEF film “SARA THE TRAP” which shows how a young girl called Sara avoids being trapped by an older man who wants to exploit her. After the film, the Pastoral Lead Teacher in their school encourages the students to talk about the film, so as to ensure that they understand its message. Next, we support the teacher to lead a discussion on the real dangers posed by Sugar Daddies and Mummies, particularly around HIV transmission. Finally, the children give us feedback though a written questionnaire. They have amazing ideas pertaining to their lives, and their need for sex education, which has never been tackled before. After the lessons, schools have found that there is a need for children to keep exchanging messages and ideas confidentially, and there have been calls for an ‘anonymous question box’ to be put in every school, which could be answered in class from time to time.
It’s now one year since the Sugar Daddy Awareness campaign started. Thirty schools and 60 teachers are signed up to the Pastoral Lead Network. We have supported 60 teachers from 30 schools. So far we have been able to run the Sugar Daddy lessons in 16 of the schools reaching out to 226 girls and 180 boys, making a total of 406 pupils. This was a less than our target, for several reason. Firstly, it is not easy task to show films in rural schools with no electricity and where it is difficult to blackout classrooms; we manage using battery run micro-projector and speakers and curtains. However, the biggest barrier is that some heads of schools, teachers and parents have found it hard to welcome sex education; there is a real fear of the taboo content and a worry that children might practice what they are being encouraged to talk about! However as a result of other activities of the Pastoral Lead Network, not least the recent hugely successful USHAPE conference in Kanungu, the concerns of the schools and parents are gradually reducing, and we now have a positive atmosphere for sex education.
We have a real expectation that by the end of 2016, we will be able to reduce the rates of teenage pregnancy and school drop outs. Through ‘sugar daddy/mummy’ awareness, girls are empowered to say no to sex until marriage, and are encouraged to stay and complete school.
By Frank Mant