Guest Blogger: Alissa Bell

10 October 2012

Hello followers of Oliver and Rebecca! My name is Alissa Bell and I am a Group 9 Youth Development Volunteer in the Kingdom of Swaziland. I, along with my PCV neighbor, Tim Taft, had the pleasure of being invited by the Zornows to teach a Reproductive Health class at their primary school for grades 5-7. I have taught this class many times now but am no less passionate about it than when I first began. I would have to be passionate about it to leave my comfortable high-veld community to wander into the Zornows’ blistering hot low-veld community.

Despite the sweltering heat I was pleasantly surprised by the warm response Tim and I received from the faculty and students. Sex is a taboo subject for most Swazis and they don’t often feel comfortable speaking to their children about it. This can sometimes leave Swazi children with many misunderstandings and questions. Moreover, because Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV in the world, these unanswered questions can pose a serious health hazard for these students.

Having worked in a Swazi primary school I quickly realized just how segregated the boys and girls are. They are often too embarrassed to sit next to someone of the opposite sex, which led me to recruit my neighbor Tim to help me teach these classes. We begin the class together but then break off with Tim teaching the boys while I educate the girls. This ensures that both the boys and girls will feel more comfortable to ask questions.

During my session with the girls, I teach them about male and female condoms, abstinence, menstruation, pregnancy, female/male anatomy, and decisions about when to have sex. Oftentimes students clam up when it comes to these topics but I found the girls at the Zornows’ school to be very inquisitive. Rebecca and I were extremely pleased with the many questions the girls asked us about menstruation and pregnancy and felt that because of them they had a better understanding of their bodies and decisions regarding sex.

After teaching the girls and answering their queries, Rebecca and I brought them back together with the boys. This last part of the class deals with STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) including HIV, herpes, and syphilis among others. I handle this portion of the lesson and admittedly use it as an opportunity to frighten the students (“You will have these STIs FOREVER!”) into using a condom. After I terrify them with talk of STIs, Tim does a condom demonstration. Included in this are myths and facts regarding condom use so that students don’t walk away with any misconceptions. After the condom demonstration, every student is required to put a condom on the model in order to guarantee they know how to properly use a condom. This portion went very smoothly with the Zornows’ students and even the girls quickly stepped up to the plate to put a condom on the model. At most schools I have to beg the girls to even touch a condom so I was very impressed with their students’ bravery.

Overall, it turned out to be a very successful class. The students were engaged and eager to learn which made teaching them a joy. Additionally, Rebecca and Oliver had the wonderful idea of giving the students candy in order to get them to participate. An idea that Tim and I will certainly utilize in future classes. I hope that this class has helped the students to make smart decisions regarding their reproductive health. Thanks again to BoZornow for inviting Tim and I to teach at their school!


Note: Our thanks to Alissa and Tim for trekking to our community to share their program with our students. The students are already asking for them to come back. -Zornows [in siSwati, BoZornow]


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