Moomba Boarding Secondary School held a Health Expo, giving 150 learners from grades 8 to 12 the opportunity to access vital health information and services.
Sepiso Lisulo, FutureLife-Now! focal person, organized the Health Expo at the FutureLife-Now! pilot school. The event, that took place on Sunday, 18 September, focused on providing a range of health services to learners.
School principal Maxwell Nyirenda officially opened the Health Expo by informing the learners that this would give them a rare opportunity to obtain critical information to help them make safe and healthy decisions regarding their future. The event was tailored in such a way that learners were provided with and given access to integrated, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.
Learners broke into six groups, and then engaged in activities and accessed information at each of the six health stations. The issues addressed at the stations included STIs and HIV screening; contraceptives and safe abortions; mental health and self-esteem, sickle cell awareness; champions and self-worth; and blood pressure.
There were many highlights, for example, a representative from the Zambia University Teaching Hospital Sickle Cell Clinic spoke to learners about sickle cell disease. This is a disease where the red blood cells contort into a sickle shape, which results in a shortage of red blood cells. This can cause ongoing pain, fatigue and infections. Learners discovered that they could take a genetic test to determine if they have the sickle gene.
Lumwanani Chikunduzi, a Grade 8 learner, said she is hoping to take a sickle cell test as soon as possible. “I learnt that I need to take the test in order to find out if I will have a child with sickle cell or not. If I know that, I can decide not to have a child. But if my husband wants a child, then we can plan how to make sure our child goes to the best hospital to be treated when they get sick.”
At the contraceptives and safe abortions health station, the learners discovered that if a young person needs an abortion, they should not seek the help of someone in the community, but instead seek a safe abortion by visiting a clinic or hospital.
Jemimah Zulu, a 16-year-old girl in Grade 12, said the expo was a great learning experience. “The issue of contraception was very meaningful to me. As we Grade 12s complete school in the next few weeks, we shall have freedom to get involved in relationships. I learnt that if I decide to have sex in my relationship, I should use condoms to protect myself against HIV.”
At the end of the day, a number of learners from grades 8, 10 and 11 dedicated themselves to becoming “message champions” and to spreading the health information they learned to the rest of the Moomba student population. These learners will be trained in public speaking to help them “champion” these health messages in the dormitories and during school assembly gatherings.
Focal point person Lisulo said the aim is to have an annual health expo. “We have learners who do not have good relationships with their parents and guardians. They have issues and questions which they cannot share with their parents. This event gave many of them the opportunity to learn about various health issues and discuss some personal issues with the nurses and clinical officers.
“The vital information they receive will equip them to make sound decisions regarding their heath and future.”