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New life skills kit launch

New life skills kit teaches children how to be health activists

A new resource kit developed by the University of the Western Cape (UWC) is aiming to improve the lives of South African learners by teaching them to deal with issues that directly affect them.

The resource kit, aligned with the school life orientation syllabus, teaches learners to develop healthy lifestyles by educating them on tuberculosis and HIV, as well as dealing with issues of self-esteem and poverty.

Developed over five years at UWC, the kit, which includes a workbook with graphic illustrations and an interactive DVD that complemented the information content in the lesson plans with digital storytelling and games, was launched at the University on Saturday, 7 September.

Funded by the United States (US) Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) at a tune of 60 000 dollars a year, the resource kit titled ‘How to be a Healthy Activist’ purpose is to engage and educate teenagers about tuberculosis within the context of HIV and help them make informed decisions about their lives to help mitigate some of the risks of infection.

Speaking at the launch, one of the principal initiators of the project, Prof Alan Christoffels of UWC’s School of Public Health, said TB, which is particularly prevalent in the Western Cape, and by extension HIV, was used as a theme with which to build on healthy lifestyle choices.

He said the project team opted to focus on life skills and equip learners with “everyday skills that will help them lead healthy lifestyles”.

Dr Edna Rooth a director at Life Skills Africa who co-produced the resource kit, said it was created based on extensive consultation with learners at schools in Elsies River, Ravensmead, Khayelitsha, Mossel Bay, George, Riversdale and Ceres.

Rooth said learners were asked what problems they faced and their responses were gathered, these responses included issues such as low esteem, lack of confidence, communication problems, fear of the future such as “will I ever get a job?”, loneliness, and poverty.

“We decided these (problems) are important for learners and let us find a way of linking these (problems) with Tuberculosis and HIV/Aids. For us, life skills is not just the focus on factual information about TB and HIV, because you cannot only just give the facts. The facts start with the heart, so we looked at dealing with the core life skills necessary to equip learners about how to counter health risks and to promote their resilience and their strengths,” said Rooth.

UWC Rector, Prof Brian O’Connell said the resource kit was part of a process to help learners understand themselves and their environment and reflect on it in order to “make the best possible decisions, not just with regard to HIV/Aids but what it means to be South African”.

Dr Faith Khumalo, Chief Director for Health in the national Department of Basic Education, said it was imperative that issues of TB were addressed as it was “the number one killer in SA today”.

Commenting on the resource kit, Grade 10 learner at Ravensmead High School, Jaylynne Ramson, 15, said it was informative and an “eye opener”.

“It’s not only a good source of information but encourages learners to set goals in life and enables them to achieve their dreams,” said Ramson.

“The book motivates us about what to do in difficult situations.

“This book helps us to fulfill our dreams,” said Monique Van Wyk, 16, a Grade 10 learner at Ravensmead High.