Youth As Knowledge Producers: Arts-based approaches to HIV and AIDS prevention and education in rural KwaZulu-Natal (March to September 2008) Researchers: Jean Stuart (PI), Naydene De Lange, Claudia Mitchell Rob Pattman, Relebohile Moletsane, Thabisile Buthelezi Youth as Knowledge Producers: is an NRF funded project now in its second year of delivery and research. It draws together, in a unique way, three key groups in relation to addressing HIV and AIDS: a cohort of young people preparing to become teachers; a cohort of rural teachers in several rural secondary schools, and a group of secondary school learners. In 2007 the beginning teachers explored ways in which they could develop themselves as resources to meet the challenges of education in the era of HIV and AIDS. Campus based workshops concentrated on ways to use participatory arts-based methodologies including: Photovoice and Collage; Video making; Forum and Image Theatre; and Hip Hop. Expertise developed was then translated into a school based intervention in a rural school. Through these activities and reflective debriefing we were able to identify some of the possibilities for using arts-based approaches for HIV and AIDS education and also possible barriers. In 2008, efforts to promote and use arts-based methods effectively in the era of HIV and AIDS have been extended on a number of fronts. In line with research that suggests that young people need to be given a more significant voice in shaping HIV and AIDS messages (Ford, Oddalo and Chorlton, 2003), we concentrated on youth-focused and learner-centred approaches which position young people as knowledge producers. Blogging provides new media space for individual voicing of views and self-expression around issues related to HIV an AIDS and in May our core of beginning teachers who had trialed ways to use arts-based methods in 2007, together with some new members, attended a weekend of workshops where they learnt how to establish their own blog sites and, blogging through a form of photovoice, expressed their ideas and reflections about their involvement in Youth as Knowledge Producers and on how we are all affected by HIV/AIDS but can take action within our communities. In the weekend following, members of this group were then able to act as facilitators to a group of learners from a rural school who in turn came to tell their stories and blog on their perspective on HIV and AIDS. We were very fortunate to have John Pascarella, course lecturer, researcher & PhD Student at Macgill University, Canada, to design and lead the workshops. His skill, initiative and dedication enabled these two groups to develop an additional angle on using arts-based approaches to address HIV and AIDS. For his angle on blogvoice and the Youth as Knowledge Producers blogging intervention see blog-voice.blogspot.com. Sharing our experiences
Conference presentation: At the end of the 2007 workshops some of the UKZN beginning teachers/peer educators commented; I am so excited about the workshops that I canâ€™t stop thinking about it. All education should be like thisâ€™ â€˜We canâ€™t end here it will be a waste of all that we have learntâ€™ â€˜We want to take this furtherâ€™ On the international front we were able to present last yearâ€™s methods and findings at American Education Research Associationâ€™s 2008 Annual Meeting Program in New York in March 2008. Toolkit production and usage In order to broaden dialogue into the usage of arts-based methods and make these methods practically accessible to interested teachers, researchers in the project converted findings from Youth as Knowledge Producers and work from Shannon Walsh and Claudia Mitchellâ€™s Fire and Hope project (Walsh, Mitchell and Smith, 2002) into a practical toolkit. This kit offers guidance, materials and arts-based approaches for opening up discussion around HIV and AIDS related issues such as gender-based violence. Tips given for effective facilitation and question techniques resulted for careful observation of difficulties teachers encounter in converting new methods into classroom activities. We were grateful for the enthusiasm and hard work two interns from the Centre for Visual Methodologies, Jess Smith and Dorothe Raht brought to compiling this toolkit. During the Faculty of Education Practice teaching period, all 19 beginning teachers involved in the Rural Teacher Education Project were given a toolkit so that they had a range of arts-based approaches at their finger tips for classroom and extra-curricular activities. The toolkit, together with workshops on arts-based approaches led by Rob Pattman, Jean Stuart, Mcgill University Professor Gale Seiler and our CVM interns Jess Smith and Dorothe Raht, ensured that even some of those teachers who had not originally explored ways of using these methods were able to use arts-based methods to open up spaces of discussion around social issues and to invite and enable learners to take action around challenging aspects of their lives by becoming knowledge producers.
These beginning teachers have shared their findings at a University of KwaZulu-Natal Education Faculty Symposium. Innovative adaptation of arts-base methods was reported. The beginning teachers are continuing to reflect on and share these findings within a pilot module for HIV and AIDS Education on the Edgewood Campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal. In-depth evaluation of the project will be conducted through the SSHRC project What Difference Does This Make: Studying Youth as Knowledge Producers in the Age of AIDS. References Ford, N. Oddalo, D, & Chorlton, R. ( 2003) Communication from a human rights perspective. Responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Eastern and Southern Africa. Journal of Health Communication, 8, 519-612. Walsh, S., Mitchell, C. & Smith, A. (2002). The Soft Cover project: Youth participation in HIV/AIDS interventions. Agenda 53, 106-112.