Sex & Sexuality Education for Marginalised Male Youth
Sex and Sexuality Education for Male Marginalised Youth at the St. Michael’s School for Boys utilised a group intervention project approach. This focused on effect management and skills training in mitigating risky sexual behaviour.
The methodology employed the social cognition thesis that behaviour can be modified, even in a detention centre, by use of the right social construct. As such, inherent in the project’s methodology was the recognition that the cognition levels of incarcerated youth generally lag behind normative average youth. Therefore, group-centered intervention is more effective in increasing knowledge about sexual health, since participants have the opportunity to learn from listening to answers to questions they might have been unwilling to ask themselves.
The objectives of the project were:
1. To identify risky behaviour and knowledge gaps that are adverse to sexual health based on social norms (value system) and sub-cultural experiences (attitudinal belief system and peer pressure) among participants.
2. To establish a facilitating context for knowledge transference regarding sexual Health, risk reduction techniques and transmission factors relative to HIV/AIDS and STDs.
3. To foster intentional affirmations, based on achievable, concrete behaviour modification, such that participants function more positively from a sexual health viewpoint at an institutional and wider community level.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
The objectives were achieved by customising the intervention, based on the context and a pre-determined psychosocial profile of the residents at St. Michael School for Boys, measured against universal indicators of ‘juvenile high risk factors’. These baseline indicators were the result of ‘Fact Finding Focus Groups’ with the Management, Caregivers and Participants respectively. The assessments so derived informed a pre and post intervention instructional design followed by two booster sessions that determined the delayed effect of the project’s intervention on Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS related knowledge, attitudes, intentions and behaviours. As far as instructionally appropriate, sessions utilised a didactic format of:
• Talking it Out;
• Thinking it Out;
• Acting It Out;
• Pointing it Out; and
• Finding it Out
Moreover, four modules were developed in respect to: Intimacy; Friendships & Sex; Basic Ideas of Sex, Gender & Sexuality; and Sexual Health & Safe Sex Practices.
The project was the first to be conducted of this nature for institutionalised youth in Trinidad and Tobago that took the context of facilitation with the boys, in order for them to have a voice in society and, most importantly, educating them on making healthier choices in life and respecting each other for who they are without discriminating against each other.
The Project/Campaign impacted the boys in the following ways:
1. Both Junior and Senior Boys showed greater levels of comprehension in response to the Oral Questionnaire in the Recall sessions as opposed to the Focus session.
2. With regard to perceptual attitudes and intentional behaviour, there was evidence of discontinuity in the responses among senior boys, which may be suggestive of a combination of social norms, cognition deficits, emotional distance arising out of institutionalised living, and a lack of reliability in questionnaire responses.
The were a number of major challenges faced:
1. Scheduling difficulties on the part of St. Michael’s School for Boys.
2. Punctuality of the boys in attendance at the focus, instructional and recall sessions.
3. Although forty boys were assigned to the sessions, there were exits and new entrants.
4. Inability of some boys to understand and express themselves effectively.
5. Short attention span and resultant bad behaviour of both groups of boys.
6. Limited number of sessions, stipulated in the M&E.
7. The return of take away assessments was very poor, only 2 out of 40 (under 10%).
8. Setbacks with availability of accommodation at the receiving institution: St. Michael’s School for Boys.
The lessons that were learnt were numerous. However, some important lessons were:
1. Boys were engaging in unhealthy sexual practices in the absence of information, thereby placing themselves at risk of HIV/AIDS and other STIs.
2. Life is more unpredictable than anyone can dare imagine, hence we must live each second by appreciating the people among us.
3. Not many young people have access to sex and sexuality education, especially those who are marginalized.
4. Although we are in a contemporary environment, appreciating diversity remains a social and moral dilemma for our future generation.