By Nguyen Thi Hai Yen, CWS Program Officer.
Hue is a young teacher at Trung Ha lower secondary boarding school, where about 300 ethnic minority students study – and live 80% of their lives together during the school year. As Hue’s students are teenagers who are changing, physically and emotionally, as they approach young adulthood, she and other of the school’s teachers are aware and very caring about this special time in their development. So, Hue was quite happy when she was asked to lead a school awareness-raising event about the quite different, but well-related in adolescents, about gender and reproductive health as a main issue and about friendship, romance and love as another part of wellbeing. Having worked in the school for several years though, Hue, knew that Trung Ha school, like her own school years ago, had never held such an event; and, honestly, she told me, she did not know how to start. Luckily, she thought that CWS, because we partner with the school on other work, might share advice and support, which I was glad we could do. And, even though we were planning Trung Ha’s first-ever activity on this topic, I was able to bring ideas from other schools with which we work.
In the end, Hue, the other teachers and I agreed to start with a student-performed role play, to draw the students, who are from very conservative cultures, into some new and sometimes taboo topics. I knew from experience that their active participation would make the learning more appealing, and probably more useful, because it was not like usual Vietnamese classroom learning around lectures and exams with close-ended questions and answers.
And, as I thought it would be, the event was quite successful with students having a lot of fun while learning; and both teachers and students is being quite grateful. Among the most grateful was Hue, who excitedly expressed her gratitude to CWS for making it possible for her to broaden her own knowledge about the topics the students discussed, plus new skills for organizing school awareness raising events. She said it was also a good learning for other teachers – like Mrs. Nhung, who added, “Talking about sensitive issues and using words we would rather not say out loud [simple, factual words] like ‘condom’ or ‘sanitary pad’ with students is hard sometimes, even for a biology teacher like me. However, teaching and learning this way, with simple, fun role plays, for example, has helped students learn more and remember better about the physical and bio-psychological development, natural feeling evolution at their age, the ill effects of child marriage, etc. and from that students know better how to protect themselves and prepare better for the future.”
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