Now that classes have finally started I am actually teaching Life Skills classes to a little over half the students. I am hoping to teach all of them but I need to wait (yep, wait longer than the 8 weeks I already have), for the timetable to be adjusted to allow for Life Skills for all the classes. I think it’s going well. The students were surprised that I knew the signs for sex, vagina, penis and condom but I’m not afraid to use them. We had a good discussion the other day about ways to protect yourself from HIV. The students listed condoms and then one girl asked what to do because sometimes guys say that the condom pinches and they can’t use it. I was really happy she felt comfortable enough to ask me and I was really happy I had an answer. We talked about how size for condoms matter and that there are female condoms available. I had some female condoms from Peace Corps to use for demonstrations so I was able to show them to the female students later that day and they were really appreciative. At home I didn’t shy away from using the words vagina or penis. They are parts of the anatomy and nothing to be shy about but man has my comfort level increased. I don’t think I would have been able to talk to a group of high school students about condoms with the same ease in the states. Perhaps my comfort level will just keep increasing and in 17 months when I return I will be almost to free about the topic of safe sex.
I actually really enjoy Life Skills class. I usually try to have a game or activity for every class. Discussions can be really hard in sign language (for me at least) and sometimes the vocabulary is missing for the students to really benefit from a discussion. I’ve realized since being here that the lessons I want to focus on actually have more to do with self-esteem instead of HIV/AIDS. Yes Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV in the world but everyone in Swaziland is teaching about HIV. Just about anyone you meet in Swaziland can tell you that using a condom or not having multiple partners but if you ask a person “Why are you important?” you get blank stares.
In the states we get our egos stroked all the time. We are told how good we do at things and are taught to stand up for our accomplishments. Here when I correct a paper and a student only gets one wrong they respond with “I failed.” This mentality pains me. I do still work on the HIV lessons, a refresher can’t hurt but I am focusing on building self-esteem and self-worth. I want these students to be able to say at the end of my two years why they matter and why it matters that they matter. I try and give compliments everyday, no matter how small because I want them to know that they at least matter to me. We are also going to work on goal setting and decision-making but first I just want them to all see that they are important.