Testing AJAN’s youth program – AHAPPY
Why is it that all of us are beloved creatures of God and yet seem so different, with some so wealthy and others comparably so poor? If God loves us, it appears He does so partially. This moving question was raised by Loice Ifula, a form-two student of St Aloysius Gonzaga School, in the huge Nairobi slum of Kibera.
Like all other students at this unique school, Loice is poor and has lost one or both parents to AIDS. That she can wonder about our equal standing in God’s eyes, given the gaping inequalities that threaten to diminish so many in our world, is thanks to the school’s supportive environment.
Loice voiced her doubts in a session of AHAPPY– the AJAN HIV and AIDS Prevention Program for Youth. The participatory approach of the program, which is being piloted at St Aloysius, elicits lively responses from students and sparks interesting debates.
AHAPPY aims to motivate and equip African youth to live and grow to the best of their ability, free from HIV, and to work for the good of others and their continent. The program imparts knowledge, life skills and values, which enable young people make healthy life choices.
The team implementing AHAPPY at St Aloysius reports encouragingly tangible results. The pilot project coincides with a move by the school to set up ‘families’ – each student now belongs to a family of 11 or 12 boys and girls from the same level, together with a professional staff member. The family sessions are focusing on AHAPPY.
Fr Terry Charlton SJ, chaplain and co-founder of St Aloysius, said: “AHAPPY is very Ignatian in many ways: it is set in the holistic context of our being beloved children of God, inviting reflection, journaling, sharing and responsible decision-making. For our students, who face so many challenges of their own family and living situations in Kibera, our ‘families’ are proving a great success in providing a supportive environment for peer support and mentorship by the adult family member.”
The way the AHAPPY content is presented has captivated students, most of who are aged between 15 and 18. What more would a teacher want? Maryfaith, in Form 2, finds the images accompanying the text funny and at the same time informative in a succinct way. She calls them cartoons and, so far, she’s particularly thrilled by a ‘cartoon’ in the module about The others and I.
Brian, another Form-2 student, motivated by the unit on Developing my intellectual capabilities, is convinced he should write lyrics for his rap song in verse. Veronica, who belongs to the same ‘family’, did not shy away from entertaining her family with her debut single on good behaviour while away from school.
The simple and sequential ordering of content has proven a great boon to members of staff. Technical jargon has been minimised (although not, thankfully, eradicated) to the extent that members of staff not specialized in a particular field have been able, with minimal guidance, to oversee discussion in their ‘families’. With a little help from a biology teacher, our school secretary, Esther Musavi, had fruitful discussions with her family on My body and I. With such ways of participation, AHAPPY shows true promise to lay the groundwork for an informed and happy generation.
John Siyumbu & Sitati T. Namasa from St Aloysius contributed extensively to this article.