ACET DRC’s aim is to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people, through educational sessions delivered in schools and youth clubs, strengthened by ‘listening centres’ where students can seek further support on personal concerns they cannot discuss in a group. Teachers and chaplains are trained to deliver the education programme and to offer psychosocial support to vulnerable young people.
In the first half of 2018, ACET DRC educational sessions were carried out in 10 schools in Goma, reaching 1357 students. This was twice as many schools as initially planned: when the additional schools heard about ACET DRC’s work, they asked to be involved, as their young people were in great need of such a programme.
To get a better understanding of the need in the 10 schools, an assessment was conducted to provide a picture of the major challenges faced by students. This revealed that challenges included: early pregnancy and parenthood; abortion; ignorance and misconceptions about physiological changes during puberty; easy access to pornographic media at home and on smartphones; alcohol and drug abuse; sexual violence; STIs; HIV; and poor critical thinking skills.
A remarkable finding was that out of the 15 reported cases of early pregnancy, 13 occurred in the 3 schools for the deaf (EPHATA). ACET DRC therefore targeted these 3 schools as a priority for education activities.
Each school has 2 educators and education sessions are delivered weekly. Topics include: relationships; human and sexual development; sexual health; gender based violence; pregnancy; STIs; HIV and AIDS; and life skills (communication, decision making, critical thinking, and dealing with peer pressure).
A carpentry teacher at EPHATA schools for the deaf, trained by ACET DRC has this to say:
“The young people at EPHATA are marginalized by their own parents, family and community because of their communication difficulties. Our culture marginalizes the deaf. To be born deaf is like being born deprived of one's rights.
This leads to inferiority complex behaviour and internal wounds. In relation to sexual health, the deaf are sexually abused because they are unable to defend themselves. Cases of abortions and early pregnancies are multiplying. We have cases of STIs and some students are HIV positive.
We mentor young boys who have a lot of problems with insufficient information and guidance on sexual health and reproduction. They are often poorly regarded in society. They have psychological disorders and sometimes they are violent. Some are perpetrators of abuse but deny responsibility. We are confronted every day with many issues related to sexual and reproductive health of young people, but often we do not have enough information and skills to deal with these challenges.
My presence at the ACET DRC training has been very beneficial because very often the deaf are ignored in these kinds of educational initiatives. I am pleased that other members of our community have also participated in the training.
I now have knowledge that will help me coach young people. We want to fight against these sexual health problems together; to value these young people born with communication problems; and also to promote healthy values by raising awareness about life skills.”