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Sex education software in Nigeria

4 Apr

Learning About Living (LAL) is a new media project in Nigerian schools helping young people to combat ignorance on issues around sexual health, HIV and AIDS, maternal morbidity and gender violence, based on the Nigerian Family Life and HIV/AIDS Education (FLHE) curriculum. It has been running for over two years now.

Funding for the Learning about Living pilot is mainly from the West: Oxfam Novib, Netherlands, MacArthur Foundation USA, Butterfly Works and Finalist IT Group, Netherlands so there is likely to be an element of Western influence over the content of the software (which is made to be compatible with Intel classmate laptops and also the One Laptop per Child device.

The idea behind it is that young characters on the computer screen become the ‘peer educators’ in classrooms that you then discuss in class exercises. 

Sensitive topics

One of the main reasons such a learning tool is needed in Nigerian schools is because young people and parents find it difficult to talk about sexual topics openly in Nigerian culture. This could potentially lead to generations of miseducation regarding sexually transmitted infections.

Professor Bene Madunago of the Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI) which is also in collaboration with LAL said that even teachers themselves were not comfortable with talking about subjects such as HIV/AIDs.

The programme follows Nigerian culture and it initiates discussions about sex, but it is important that it only accompanies teaching rather than replaces it, as not talking about sexual relationships face-to-face may become the norm and could be a dangerous thing if health education on sensitive subjects was solely dependent on computers that replace human contact.

Limitations

It is a largely decontralised approach that can seem less orderly to an authoritarian-style teacher for example. so they have to adapt as well as the students.

LAL explores myths

The problem with these programmes is that student assessment and feedback can be fairly limited and bandwidth limitations mean you cannot necessarily develop them any further.

Apart from a short quiz after every section of information, there is not actually a way of monitoring whether students are taking any of the information in.

I went through one of the lessons online on HIV and AIDs. In effect it did feel like I was reading a health leaflet but with some colourful images accompanied, but information was very simple and clear. It also promotes abstinence which can be dangerous if ‘fidelity’ is the only thing you’re relying on for STI prevention, however it does offer advice for young people who don’t choose abstinence.

The interactive test is interesting as it explores the myths surrounding HIV as well as the facts – have a go here.

On the whole it also allows teenagers to ask questions online, discretly which they would never have done out loud in the classroom. The online service has had a good response indicating the need for it. Perhaps there is a need for more consultation with young people and parents to establish their information needs.

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