A sexual education programme designed to encourage safer sexual practices in an era of HIV and AIDS in Wentworth among the youth (age category 15-24) of the Mountain of Fire Global Ministries (MFGM)
This research paper is designed to introduce a sexual education programme that can be adapted for Mountain of Fire Global Ministries (MFGM), to guide the youth in their safer sexual practices in the era of HIV and AIDS. In view of this, the research paper will build upon other sexual education programmes such as S- safer practices, A- available medication, V- voluntary counseling and testing, E- empowerment through education (“SAVE”), A- abstain, B- be faithful, C- condomize (ABC) and others (INERELA+ 2008:1). Setting the stage to understand the challenge in South Africa for safer sexual practices among youth, the researcher saw it fit to conduct research in his local community of Wentworth. The intention of the research was to get a basic understanding of the HIV and AIDS prevalence among youth and the type of education they were receiving from the local organizations. The interviews conducted in the research demonstrated that there was more of an authoritarian or top-down rather than a grass roots bottom-up approach used by the organizations, which gave the impression that the type of curriculum used was obsolete. The researcher felt that addressing the need for safer sexual practices among youth would have been more effective if the approach was through dialogue. Youth may have felt insecure, believing that some of their needs, inputs or experiences could not be discussed in a top-down approach. Organizations that appeared to be condescending, as well as more superior and intellectually equipped, may have made youth feel inferior and inadequate. The outcome of this approach may have created mixed feelings between the organizations and the youth. A lack of understanding, on behalf of the educating organizations, as to what the youth really required in education on safer sexual practices and what they were experiencing personally, eventually could have led to the youth treating the education lightly. On the other hand, from a Christian education perspective, this research paper ascertained that the youth were being squeezed into a mould where safer sexual practices were not considered. Christian education strongly discourages the practice of sex outside of marriage and teaches that abstaining from sex until marriage is the only commendable way. This type of education creates a distancing and has a great impact on the lives of youth, especially those who are sexually active. Somehow if they do engage in sexual activity, they feel isolated, inferior, unaccepted and inadequate to grow spiritually. The change in their attitude and behavior results from continuous pulpit caution, instead of precaution, on how to manage safe or safer sexual practices. Christian education continues to place fear on the youth about premarital sex and the youth often feel that they are responsible for the consequences that derive from negligence. This research uncovered that Christian education adopted a top-down instead of a bottom-up approach, thus denying the youth the opportunity to express themselves with their experiences and needs when it came to safe or safer sexual practices. In view of the hierarchical approaches of some organizations and Christian education, the youth find themselves under difficult circumstances, whereby they are not given the opportunity to relieve themselves of some of the pressures they face when it comes to safe and safer sexual practices. In light of this struggle to find common ground, Paulo Freire in his book Pedagogy of the oppressed (2003:71-83) introduces some positive methods, such as dialogue, that can broker a relationship between the facilitator and the participants. In addition to this, the International Network of Religious persons with and affected by AIDS (INERELA+) has compiled a “SAVE” Toolkit (2012) that the researcher has included in the research paper, as a guide to walk alongside Freire‟s philosophy of dialogue. This will help to bridge the gap between the facilitators and the participants, and assist them in finding a common ground as they search for social transformation in the context of safer sexual practices. The interviewees mentioned in the research showed a great deal of experience and knowledge, but they were limited in the ABC method they used to educate youth on HIV and AIDS. This method did not cater for those who were beyond this stage, such as those who had contracted the virus. Since the “SAVE” Toolkit is more user friendly, incorporating both the ABC method and reproductive health for those who have contracted the virus to live a positive lifestyle, to blend it with dialogue improves its effectiveness. This proved to be an important finding in the research in terms of the hypothesis which promotes a sexual education programme for safer sexual practices among youth. This will eventually assist youth to develop mindsets that enable them to be more responsible in their sexual behavior.