Background: ‘Learning about Living’ (LaL) was designed to empower young people in Nigeria to make well-informed decisions about their personal lives and relationships by utilising ICTs to provide accurate and non-judgemental information about sexual health. Its objectives included a measurable positive change in adolescent knowledge, attitudes and practices relating to sexual health.
It was initiated in 2006 by OneWorld UK and Butterfly Works, Netherlands, working with key stakeholders’ in the youth sexual and reproductive health field in Nigeria. A two-year pilot ran from 2007 — 2009, followed by a three-year scale-up stage which ran from 2009-2011. In 2012 the programme was passed onto local partners and stakeholders to run and manage.
What did the programme involve? An interactive e-Learning programme in the form of an electronic version of the Family Life and HIV/Aids Education (FLHE) national curriculum was created in order to teach adolescents about all aspects of reproductive health, including HIV prevention. This was based on the curriculum developed by the National Agency for Curriculum Development in the Nigerian educational sector. The programme was rolled out across over 500 schools and wider reach was later provided by a national mobile phone helpline.
Teachers from each school involved received training about how to use the programme – including learning about participatory teaching practices, such as how to encourage and prompt discussion amongst young people in response to the issues raised by the programme. Teachers also received copies of the LaL CD and help with set-up, plus ongoing support provided through local organisations. Some schools were also given a computer.
The e-Learning programme featured virtual peer educators who provided interactive information – through games, activities, cartoons, and quizzes — on various sexual and reproductive health issues including HIV prevention as well as wider issues such as self-esteem and how to stay healthy.
The mobile phone helpline supported this classroom based programme as it meant students who had more personal questions they felt uncomfortable asking or discussing in the classroom could call or text the confidential mobile phone helpline or could be referred by their teacher to a local young-people friendly health service.
Why this approach? The ‘participatory learning’ approach was used as this approach acknowledges and welcomes existing knowledge and competence of the students; students are central in the learning process and teachers become facilitators. Students are given space to develop their own viewpoint through active experience. It is most appropriate when the subject being taught affects deeply help beliefs and attitudes. HIV/AIDs and other reproductive health issues fit into this category, hence the choice of a participatory approach. Participatory approaches should empower young people to co-solve the challenges and co-design the path forward.
Results observed: In the 2012 yearly evaluation, 78% of young people who used the service reported that they passed on the information they received to family and friends. The impact of eFLHE was found to be up to 10-20% more effective as a teaching method when compared to the regular method of teaching the curriculum.
Learning About Living encouraged young people to think about issues relating to sexual health. This is evidenced by the fact that when the mobile phone helpline was launched in November 2007, over 11,000 questions had been sent by the end of January 2008. 27,000 questions had been asked by mid-July 2008. The external evaluation including feedback from students, including one student who said: “I feel free now to talk about issues of sexuality.”
Lessons learnt: One of the key lessons learnt from the case study is the importance of continuing evaluation. Evaluation of the programme in schools highlighted that some students still felt uncomfortable asking certain questions in a class environment. As a result of this, the confidential mobile phone helpline was introduced.
In addition the importance of participation can be seen. Through young people being encouraged to learn actively, they are more likely to share their knowledge with others.
(Source: Learning about Living website)