By Jeff Andrew Lule
A peer education organization Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU) has set out to use the conventional dustbin as a tool for educating peer groups.
The unique initiative is being done in a number of secondary schools within Uganda.
RAHU, a brainchild of Humprey Nabimanya, who is also a local TV host, is already at work. They are distributing the dustbins in schools under their latest peer education campaign dubbed: ‘Sexuality campaign under 18, through talking environment’.
These dustbins are specially designed with stickers bearing messages on just about anything related; sexual reproductive health, abstinence, HIV prevention, healthy living, peer pressure, drug abuse, sex slavery, name it.
For starters, the project is worth $5000 (about sh12m), and aims at increasing access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Right (SRHR) information in schools and communities.
It is also looking to create an enabling environment where the youth are empowered to discuss about SRHR issues.
They intend to distribute over 500 dustbins in as many as 150 schools across the country. The initiative under the Peer Educators Academy (PEA) project will run for one year.
“We have started with 30 schools in and around Kampala because of limited funds and we have so far reached 15 schools,” said Nabimanya while launching the project at Hana Mixed School in Nsangi.
Students of Mariam High School received dustbins. Second from far right is Humphrey Nabimanya. PHOTO/Jeff Andrew Lule
The dustbins are placed in more strategic areas where rubbish is disposed of, thus becoming a good avenue for young people to access the messages freely.
For this project to come to life, Nabimanya had to compete with other youth leaders in Africa and Asia to win the Women Deliver Seed grant amounting $5000 – a grant was funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global.
Some of the schools which have received the dustbins include, among others, Hana Mixed School Nsangi, Mariam High School, Lowel Girls School, Our Lady of Africa Namilyango and Mbogo College School, Atalas High School and Sumaya Girls.
Nabimanya sees schools as having a significant role to play in guiding and nurturing children’s interests, values and ultimately, career decisions to easily help them make informed choices.
‘A good communication tool’
The messages on the dustbins were also developed by young people.
“Focus group discussions were held with a group of students to discuss the different messages and get to know what they thought of the campaign,” he said.
Already, the impact of the initiative is being felt, and more importantly, appreciated.
The dustbins are designed with various enriching messages. Here, students of Our Lady of Africa, Namilyango pose with their share. PHOTO/Jeff Andrew Lule
Amina Nalule, a Senior Four student of Miriam High School, said the project has helped students understand issues around sexuality. “It is a good communication tool [in situations] where teachers fear to speak out. I think all schools should adopt it.”
"I love the message of ‘Knowledge is Swagg’ on the dustbins because it influences many of us to make informed choices in life,” pointed out another student, Aisha Najuma, of Hana Mixed School.
The deputy headteacher of Mariam High School said students in her school have already nicknamed dustbins ‘sexuality dustbins’, an indication that the project is working.
‘Drivers of our nation’
Earlier this year, RAHU and International Health Science University supported by theMTV Staying Alive Foundation and the Segal Family foundation inaugurated the PEA project to train young people in life skills, self-awareness and SRHR, and help the youth integrate these skills as key elements in their lives.
“Under this strategy young people are trained and equipped to reach out to other peers to make informed choices and, ultimately, change their attitudes and behaviors,” said Nabimanya.
Youth-led projects, he said, provide a platform for young people to acquire critical life skills, including self-confidence, planning, decision making, and social exposure, among others.
“It is no longer a question of knowledge leading to behavior change, but peers themselves bringing about change. I believe we are the drivers of our nation.”
The project is expected to reach over 20,000 youth in one year.