Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sexual and Reproductive Health

Logre Jr. High School
This week we taught sexual and reproductive health at two junior high schools. Although we were teaching in similar settings at both schools, our experience varied drastically between the two environments.  At Lorge Junior High we had a formal greeting with organized introductions to students and staff. The students readily split themselves into two groups of girls and two groups of boys. We were not only impressed by the student's cooperation and respect, but also their knowledge on the subject of sexual health. Starting with a solid foundation of anatomy, we were able to work with the students to further their understanding of healthy relationships, pressured and unwanted sex, and violence against women. We finished off this teaching session by
Days for Girls Kits
sharing our Days for Girls menstruation and hygiene kits with the young ladies at Lorge. With lots of giggles and excitement the students happily accepted their packs. Like many of our experiences, this one ended with a circle of dancing and singing.

As we drove to the next school we shared our experiences and talked about how pleased we were with the way our presentations went. Jeannette told us that this school was really exceptional in the way it is run compared to other schools in the region. It was great to see teachers who are passionate about their work and how that reflects on their students. We set off with high expectations and drove down yet another dusty, bumpy dirt road. 

Kotintabig Jr. High School
At the next school, Kotintabig Jr. High, things had a different feel. It was a much bigger school and when we arrived we met with the vice principal under a tree in the yard. The students were again split up and we ventured out to meet our new groups. Classroom space was limited so several groups moved out under the shade of the large trees in the yard.  We quickly realized that the students didn't know who we were or why were there. As we introduced ourselves we noticed that there was more of a language barrier. Although English is the official language used in Ghanaian schools, many of the students had a hard time understanding what we were saying. They were all lovely and cooperative, and with the help of a teacher we did our best to make sure our words were understood.

Teaching under the trees
As we started our presentation we also learned that the students were between the ages of 9 and 17.  We were surprised by this after teaching at Lorge, where the students were all between 12-14 years old. As you can imagine it is difficult to teach sexual health when you consider the varying knowledge base of such a diverse group. Now add a language barrier and try to cram an entire sexual health presentation into one hour. It was tough, but we somehow made it through the material and at the end had an anonymous question box. While we answered as many questions as we could, we left with heavy hearts when we ran out of time. Reading through the unanswered questions on the bus was a hard blow to realize that some students had not understood what we were saying.

Sexual health is so incredibly important. It can be a difficult subject to talk about and I am grateful our group had the opportunity to share our knowledge. As nurses we hope to connect with our communities and do the best we can for them. Sometimes it's hard to meet the needs of an entire community and when this happens you can question your methods. I know many of us would have liked more time and may have done things a bit differently if we could. However, there were many students who learned a lot from our presentations. Things don't always work out the way you expect (which is something we are becoming very familiar with in Ghana), but this is how we learn and grow in our practice.

- Victoria Cluett 

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