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Secondary students get peer educator training

Secondary students get peer educator training

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Whilst many frolicked on beaches over the Easter vacation, selected students, from eight secondary schools in and around Kingstown, attended a well-received HIV/AIDS Peer Educators Training Camp, at the Richmond Vale Academy in Richmond.{{more}}

The camp, which was held from April 5 – 9, 2009, was sponsored by the World Bank’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control project through the National AIDS Secretariat, and coordinated in conjunction with the Ministry of Education.

Abner Richards, HIV/AIDS Coordinator in the Ministry of Education, visited SEARCHLIGHT this week, along with three youths who attended the camp. Richards explained that the aim of the camp, was to train HIV/AIDS Peer Educators within the secondary schools, so that they can share what they have learnt with their peers, and increase knowledge and awareness of the disease. “They will be able to disseminate HIV information to their peers…” said Richards.

She relayed that the camp not only dealt with HIV/AIDS-related topics, but also covered issues such as self-esteem, conflict resolution, interpersonal skills and peer pressure. “We expect that at the end of the camp, when they would have returned to their schools, that they can form a group among themselves and do HIV-related activities within their schools,” Richards expressed.

Richards further conveyed her satisfaction at the execution of the training camp. “It was a wonderful experience. I think they enjoyed it… I enjoyed it!” The students who accompanied her were all in agreement on this – duly noted by their desire for another camp and for a longer period of time.

Glenroy Russell, a 17-year-old student of the Kingstown Technical Institute, was adamant that the training camp had provided him, and many others, with a wealth of useful information about the disease, that he previously had no idea of. “To me, it was a whole new experience!” Glenroy believes, that the camp has also helped him to interact better with new friends and get along with people he’s not familiar with. Since completing the camp, he takes part in sessions at the school on Wednesdays, where he speaks to his peers about matters that concern and may affect them – HIV/AIDS included.

Rebekah Antoine, of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School, and Taj Lee, of the St. Vincent Grammar School (15 and 14, respectively) were in unison about the interesting nature of the training camp. They both expressed, how the newly acquired information, had dispelled many of the myths they had heard about the disease and how it is transmitted. Similarly, they thoroughly enjoyed the group activities and role-play sessions.

Having already formed a school group, which will share what they learnt on the camp with her school chums, Rebekah informed SEARCHLIGHT that the school will be hosting an event on May 25th at the Peace Memorial Hall, which intends to be a fun, yet, educational display of HIV/AIDS related issues. Tickets, priced at $10, will be available from selected students and the Thomas Saunders Secondary School.

Taj is of the opinion, that the training camp should be a yearly event and has also been imparting what he learnt to his peers. His interest was particularly piqued, by the way in which the HIV virus breaks down the immune system. Along with the other SVGS students who attended the camp, he has plans to hold a quiz and open discussion on the matter within the school.

All three agreed that abstinence is the best way for young people to protect themselves from the disease, but acknowledged that there are those who are already sexually active, so they should be using condoms to prevent infection.Passionate about the matter, Glenroy expressed a desire to see more Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) teachers, who are comfortable discussing sex-related topics. “Some of them don’t want to answer your questions!” he dismayed. Essentially, the more open a teacher is, the more thorough the knowledge he/she imparts, and this enables more students to make more informed choices in regard to sexual activities.

Richards also pointed out that HFLE is only taught up until Form 3, and perhaps, that is a shortcoming that officials need to address.

The participating schools were, the Kingstown Technical Institute, Thomas Saunders Secondary School, St. Vincent Grammar School, Intermediate High School, North Union Secondary School, West St. George Secondary School, St Clair Dacon Secondary School and Barrouallie Secondary School. (JSV)

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