Children, staff and parents in Kaski schools marked World AIDS Day this year with a specially written song on the theme “Everybody is welcome in our school!” The impetus for this initiative was an earlier sad reminder that everybody is NOT welcome – 3 children who are HIV positive had been refused admission to a school in Kaski; and when they were eventually admitted, were then sent home again because parents refused to accept them.
In the belief that such painful events happen out of ignorance, and that this must be challenged, Kaski Education and HIV/AIDS volunteers worked together with the District Education Office and our NGO partners Nepali National Dalit Social Welfare Organisation, Friends of Hope and Community Support Group to offer a programme to VSO partner schools, consisting of a staff training session; a lesson for all children; and a parents meeting. A total of 800 children and 320 parents and teachers in 14 different schools in Kaski took part.
On World AIDS Day (1 December) children in all schools sang the World AIDS Day song and were video’d for a special World AIDS Day website – watch this space!
Given the primary age group, we decided on the following key messages to be given to staff, children and parents:
· an HIV positive child is no danger to other children;
· children can play together, hold hands, share food, use the same toilet with no risk.
· HIV + children and adults can be treated, with free medicine available in Pokhara.
· Everybody is welcome in our school!
The sessions went well. 16 guest teachers from Friends of Hope and Community Support Group were trained by VSO volunteers to deliver a lesson to children using puppets to tell a story and involve children in creating the message; NNDSWO organised a parents’ meeting at each school at which the guest teachers spoke; and everybody sang the song and enjoyed kaajaa together. We all enjoyed working together on this project, and believe it has raised awareness amongst VSO partner schools and communities, and promoted the message of inclusion which is at the heart of our work. We’re planning a bigger and better event for next year!
Debbie Seaborn, Petra Hoeve, Dorieke Looije
VSO Kaski volunteers.