Peer Education: A panacea to SRH Service Provision in Tertiary Institutions
After recently visiting a local university, I felt nostalgic about my exciting days at college and wish I could turn back the hands of time because these were the best days of my life. Contrary to the idea that nostalgia can lead us stuck in the past, I have realized that looking back can help us look forward and refocus.
By Nyashadzaishe Marima
Being a first year student at a university really feels good because it is indeed a great time to enjoy freedom after high school where one now stays alone and has access to huge sums of pocket money from parents, guardians, siblings and of course blessers the term used by contemporary students.
During weekends a lot of time is spent planning and attending social scenes and most of these activities would be outside the university campus because campus premises have their own rules and regulations which are usually not in sync with what has been planned and definitely will fall out of favour.
In town, one would easily recognize university students through their latest fashionable dressing, stylish hair, moving around in groups and obviously their young and innocent looking faces. The distinction of this sub group of population from the rest makes them vulnerable and become a good and fresh prey to the blessers who are usually older men and women with financial resources to offer students in return for sexual favours.
This generation of students faces a myriad of challenges ranging from economic, social, psychological and some could be health related. There are many financial obligations to be met by students such as buying meals, transport and stationery and failure to meet such would often result in devastating situations where students engage in transactional sex in order to get money.
During social scenes such as parties and other organized events, students would want to enjoy themselves and ease the academic pressure and most of them get intoxicated and this often leads to risky sexual behaviours that would expose them and their partners to STIs including HIV, unplanned pregnancy and sexual violence.
In order to minimize and avoid the above mentioned challenges faced by students, partners sexual reproductive health services in the Midlands province have embarked on training students in tertiary learning institutions through the Peer Education model. Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) working in partnership with Students And Youth Working on HIV and AIDS in Tertiary Institutions (SAYWHAT) and National AIDS Council (NAC) recently trained 40 Peer Educators from Midlands State University and 20 from Mkoba Teachers College.
Peer Education is a model where trained and motivated young people undertake informal or organized educational activities with their colleagues. This model is very effective in as far as learning life skills to obtain positive sexual and reproductive health outcomes is concerned. The model creates a relaxed environment where young people learn through asking questions on subjects often regarded as taboo without fear of being judged.
After undergoing Peer Education training, a good Peer Educator is obliged to help young people identify their concerns and seek solutions through sharing of information, conducting peer counselling sessions, inspire fellow peers to adopt health seeking behaviours and most importantly be a role model by demonstrating positive behavior. ZNFPC has technical and competent staff in every province qualified to train young people in Peer Education and tertiary institutions can partner with the Council so that the Universities churn out graduates with high grades and free from sexual and reproductive health problems.