AU Peer Educators receive increased training to assist at- risk youth and become change agents in stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS

Story by

Wilson Tanyaradzwa Hazangwi (2:2 , Social Work)

One of the most encouraging signs that mankind is not doomed to extinction is the presence of places where young people congregate to learn so that they can become change agents. From March 27th to March 31st, the Golden Peacock Hotel accommodated peer educators from Africa University and other universities such as Harare Institute of Technology, the National University of Science and Technology, the University of Zimbabwe, and the Chinhoyi University of Technology. SAYWHAT, the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council, the Aids and TB Unit, and the National Aids Council were our gracious hosts. They devised a 5-day training workshop to guarantee that participants would leave with the skills to coordinate activities for peer educator programs, share their own experiences as peer educators, deliver peer educator activities in a standardized fashion, disseminate up-to-date information, and receive thorough training. A schedule of activities and the enthusiastic instructors leading them were provided for each day.


On this day, the following initial greetings and workshop targets were established. There was a pre-test to see how much we already knew about the topic we were about to study; this was done so that the mentors could get a sense of how much they had already learned about the youth and their sexual practices and the STDs that can result from them. Thereafter, we were given brief summaries of the organizations our guests represented, the lessons they planned to impart, and the causes they sought to further.


We began the day with a brief review of the previous day’s material before moving on to a discussion about sexual and reproductive rights for young people. We analysed the national and international frameworks that protect the sexual rights of young people and learned about the numerous rights that young people have according to their sexualities. Mrs Talent Moyo (representing the TB and Cholera Division) facilitated on this session. We then went on to the fundamentals of HIV/AIDS, where we de-mystified the disease and dispelled the myths that surround it. We covered topics like HIV transmission, preventative methods, and diagnostic tests.


We discussed how universities may better inform students about HIV prevention and treatment measures during class time. Next, we discussed teenage and college student-specific SRH services, where participants were provided with information about and access to a variety of SRH services, including contraception education and condom distribution. Following a delicious meal, we dove into a discussion about how to get young people involved in positive ways, and how to differentiate between the various ways they might do so. We then had an end-of-day review and retired for the night.


Moving on, we dug deep into communication and life skills, with workshops on topics such as decision-making, creativity, stress reduction, interpersonal skills, and group facilitation. Participants were then given an overview of youth-friendly services and taught why it’s crucial to use youth-friendly approaches when working with students on SRH concerns. We further discussed institutional frameworks for SRH programming and the many roles that college personnel might play in assisting students in making use of available resources. We then discussed how well the day’s lessons had prepared us for the future.


The last day of the workshop focused on a work plan, setting goals, and drafting a report, as well as discussing the potential and challenges prevalent by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education and its role in enhancing SRH and HIV responses for young people. The purpose of these was to keep tabs on the systems in place on college campuses to assess the quality and applicability of student-focused SRH, HIV, and AIDS programming. They also aimed to define who a young person is, identify distinct types of at-risk youth, and learn more about the physiological and psychological needs of young people, which, if unmet, can contribute to problems such as substance abuse.

The Peer Network Club is extremely appreciative for this extraordinary chance, and they intend to demonstrate that they are advocates of behavioural change by influencing their peers to adopt healthy sexual behaviours through extensive sexuality education.