The Corporation’s society is training and equipping teachers of classes IX, X and XI of Chennai schools, CBSE and matriculation schools

Preethi Hariharan (name changed) was uncomfortable on hearing words that until then were on the list of unspoken or never discussed subjects.

But at the end of a day’s session on adolescent education, she along with several other teachers learned it was time that they stop hushing up things related to sexual health, and chalk out ways for better communication with the students.

On one hand is the prevalence of child abuse and biological, psychological changes during adolescence and on the other hand is teachers lacking the methodology to handle children who come to them with such problems. This turned the attention of Chennai Corporation AIDS Prevention and Control Society’s (CAPACS) to training and equipping teachers of classes IX, X and XI of Chennai schools, Central Board of Secondary Education and matriculation schools in adolescent education.

“Till last year, we were focusing on training teachers from Chennai Schools. The National AIDS Control Organisation has directed us to cover all schools in the city from this year,” said an official. So far, CAPACS has covered two teachers each from 36 CBSE schools and 70 Chennai Schools, while training for matriculation teachers will commence next week.

The programme touched on aspects including helping students handle peer pressure, having a healthy relationship with members of the opposite sex, misconceptions of HIV, adolescent health, personal hygiene and information on HIV/AIDS and means of transmission.

“The actual need for this was that there are several cases of child abuse but most of them go unreported. The abuse is usually not by strangers but by people known to children. These trained teachers can take this forward to other teachers and in turn to students, and thereby help in protecting the children,” he said.

For many teachers, who participated in the programme, the session served as an eye-opener. A. Hemalatha, student counsellor, St. John’s Senior Secondary School, Mandaveli said it was time to stop being hesitant about dealing with adolescent issues. “Students have plenty of information but they often get it from wrong sources including friends, television and internet. As peer educators, we can give them the right information,” she said.

For Supriya Sudesh, a social science teacher at Sindhi Model Senior Secondary School, Kilpauk, the training has given a head-start in better communication with students. “It is important to stop being shy about such topics. This programme will help me identify vulnerable children. I can push these discussions in a lighter vein while teaching by mixing it up with the curriculum,” she added.

She is slowly taking up personal hygiene with girl students. G. Jayabharathi, a counsellor of Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre of CAPACS said students had several questions including those on pregnancy, abuse, menstruation and sexual health.

“Students ask us several doubts during our weekly interactions at schools. It all depends on how teachers open up and talk to them. The teachers also felt the need for counsellors at all schools,” she said.

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