For more than three years now, we have been working with school children on a weekly basis and have identified some significant challenges that they face in their settings. In 2022, we launched a series of educational workshops on these specific topics in schools. We focus on raising awareness and knowledge about rights, substance abuse, female genital mutilation and online safety for children aged 9 to 19 in schools across the district.
To mark our 5th Anniversary as an organisation, we spoke with facilitators Wisdom and Sulemana about what school activities are like and what they have learned from listening to and working with groups of children.
Tell us a bit about the school activity you lead.
Wisdom: The school activity is a sensitization on Alcohol abuse among basic schools in Builsa North. Alcohol is easily accessible in the municipality and its usage among teenagers/ youth is very pervasive. The school activity was therefore aimed at engaging them practically at that youthful age on the effects of alcohol abuse to help them make an informed decision not to fall victim to the abuse.
Sulemana: I am a child rights facilitator, and I carry out the following key roles: The first responsibility is to engage school children on child rights by educating them to understand their fundamental human rights so that they become empowered to be able to protect themselves or seek protection when they are abused. Again, I engage parents and caregivers on their roles and responsibilities as regards child right. As stakeholders of child protection, it`s good for teachers to understand child protection better so that children will get quality support services in the school environment.
What kinds of issues are coming up during the sessions?
Sulemana: In all the schools I have engaged in, interaction with the students indicates that most of them hold the belief that the best way to correct a child is through corporal punishment. Corporal punishment, therefore, is normal to them when it is committed by a parent or a caregiver. Some parents still engage their children on the farm during school/instructional hours. A practice that can easily truncate the education of the child, yet it is seen to be normal. Finally, gender roles (especially house chores) are a serious challenge to girl child education. During our sessions, it is common to see a girl sleeping, and when quizzed on whether she is not feeling well the reply has always been that they are tired because before coming to school she did house chores.
Wisdom: During the session, I noticed the majority of the students had been exposed to alcohol at those youthful ages. Some of the students (minors) verbalised being engaged in selling alcohol at a “drinking spot” owned by their parents. Other students as young as 12 years were also sent by adults to purchase alcohol for them. Due to this early exposure, the students could list up to 20 different brands of alcohol. This is a clear indication that the laws binding alcohol usage and purchases are not enforced in the community.
What have you learnt from working with groups of children? Is there anything you’ve changed as the programme has developed?
Wisdom: It was fun working with children! It is more fun when pedagogy is employed just as it was done throughout the sessions I facilitated. I have again learned about how useful icebreakers can be in facilitating workshops. In addition to the above, pupils are more challenged to generate ideas if you ask them to list a certain number of answers to a question rather than leaving it open. E.g., Mention 5 harmful effects of alcohol and not write down the harmful effects of alcohol.
Sulemana: As a facilitator, I learned that children learn best when engaged in group discussions. I also learned to communicate simply when interacting with them. I’ve learned to create a flexible and friendly atmosphere for children to open up during discussions.
I ensured that apart from the individual exercises that students carry out in their workbooks, the sitting arrangements are always informal. Through this arrangement, the timid students feel secure and therefore also take part in discussions. From the observations made, most of those students are very good but only lack the confidence to talk publicly.
Do you have any favourite moments from the workshops?
Sulemana: The third and fourth sessions have always been my favourite moments. This is the point where the students get to understand the concept of abuse, the types of abuse, how and when to report cases of abuse and where to report them. Even without a word from them, one could realize their appreciation of the discussions. This is the point where a lot of information we explored about child rights clicks for them.
Wisdom: The icebreaker moments were filled with fun. After the sessions, the students usually request to have one more session of the icebreaker. Other fun moments were when these pupils could demonstrate so well the behaviours of someone drunk.