(Teen Club! It rocks!)
This weekend was the monthly Teen Club; I’m so glad I got to attend one while I’m here: it was a lot of chaotic fun.
The agenda is similar every club: first, a warm-up, then activities, then a presentation. Then lunch, then a wind-down and speech from the program coordinator. The teens leave, and the Teen Leaders debrief.
For warming up, the teens stand in a circle in the clinic’s parking lot (a big circle — there are about 130, sometimes up to 200) and play running around-and-tagging games, shouting cheers led by their ten elected Teen Leaders, and just generally making noise and getting woken up. I think at one point there was a ball, and lots of laughing, and finally, in unison: “YES WE CAN!” the Teen Club motto.
Then, they announced the winners of the annual Teen Leader election — five older boys and girls who serve as examples, mentors, and help run the activities. They were responsible for breaking the teens into groups, to do that day’s activities.
This month’s topic was Love and Dating. It was originally Sex, Love and Dating (part two), but after some heated management debate apparently “sex” was removed this year. Abstinence-only education is a political issue here in Botswana (where isn’t it, I suppose?) — apparently “sex” was removed from sex ed in the national education curriculum a few years ago, and several politicians got unseated for supporting it, and the trend is towards more abstinence-only education here, mostly for religious and decency reasons.
I kept my mouth (mostly) shut as my boss explained the reasoning behind the decision to us last week — it was tough, though. He’s in the middle of the issue, and I’m a bystander with no real understanding of the cultural land-mines involved, my own personal belief that sex ed is an important and necessary part of early teen education aside. It was very difficult not to get ranty about teen pregnancy statistics, but I tried to keep in mind that those statistics may not even be relevant to the Batswana, as the only studies I’ve paid attention to were all gathered in Western countries. My boss noted that kids learn about sex anyway — even really young kids see it, simply because of the cramped living conditions here, so it wasn’t something they didn’t already know about…
Love and dating, then. The teens split into groups, older teens and younger, and went to do their activities. The teens were asked guided questions about their assumptions about love and dating — who pays for a date, whose responsibility is housework, that sort of thing — and facilitators delved a bit into some of the answers. Then, younger teens composed songs about love, and older teens did some role-playing.
Then they did a presentation: sang their songs, read their poems, at one point somebody broke out a guitar. Everybody had a lot of (educational) fun.
The only hiccough was lunch. The local “Pick ‘n Pay” is supposed to prepare subs, but due to some corporate espionage their entire catering staff was hired away to a new chain store and the new staff doesn’t really know what it’s doing. So lunch was several hours late. The kids didn’t seem to mind: they ran around, played soccer, clustered into groups, texted their friends, and just generally did that thing that adults are so bad at doing: hanging out.
Unfortunately, that meant that by the time we got to the Teen Leader briefing, where I was going to tell them about blogging and set up accounts on the new website for them… there were no Teen Leaders left! Everybody ate lunch and then poof! Disappeared. I was really quite depressed — training and capacity-building passing on knowledge is one of the key reasons I’m here. And once they were gone, getting them to come back during the week was going to be difficult.
I did manage to get some teens blogging, though. More on that later…