- Category: HIV Prevention & Character Education
- Country: Swaziland (previous), South Africa
iMatter is a character education curriculum and teacher training program that is designed to equip primary schools students with the motivation and knowledge they need to combat HIV/AIDS.
iMatter teaches children that they are valuable, they can prevent HIV, and they have the power to effect lasting change. But why is this such a powerful tool? Because research shows that one of the key factors in high-risk behavior is a lack of awareness of one’s individual worth. If the individual isn’t valuable, the individual isn’t cared for – whether the individual is oneself or someone else.
The Heart of Hope Education
iMatter can really be considered the heart of Hope Education – the program that started it all. It was the first program developed by Hope Education, and it was designed to address the HIV/AIDS problem in Swaziland. Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10% of the world’s population, but it home to more than 60% of all people living with HIV. In 2005, the HIV/AIDS prevalence was between 37% and 40% of the population ages 15-49, with a life expectancy between 40-45 years.
HEF targeted the roots of the issue with the development of iMatter. Research showed us that among the factors contributing to HIV/AIDS infection, one of the most important was a sense of self-worth. Other available programs didn’t target this problem, so we developed a curriculum tht not only provides information on HIV, but also teaches children that they are important and that they can affect their future. iMatter contains all of the core values of Hope Education: knowledge, character, hope. Through iMatter, children learn not only how to prevent HIV, but why they should do and what makes them able to do it.
What the Program Looks Like
iMatter looks a little bit different in different contexts, but the basic structure is the same. HEF hires and trains Master Trainers, who know the iMatter curriculum and can teach other people how to use it. These Master Trainers then train primary school teachers to use the curriculum in their classrooms. Once the teachers are trained and provided with iMatter materials, they return to their schools and begin teaching iMatter where it fits in with their year’s subjects. iMatter consists of ten lessons that combine stories with both interactive and individual learning activities. There are two sets of age-appropriate materials, one designed for ages 5-8 and the other for ages 9-12.
iMatter in South Africa
After implementing for several years in Swaziland, we turned the program over to our local partners. Ultimately, this is the goal for all of our programs, and we always partner with local entities to increase the chances for long-term sustainability. In 2007 we began working with Reaching a Generation in South Africa. They helped us develop the teacher training program, and under the funding of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) we began implementing in South Africa in 2008. Since that time, we have worked in 6 out of the 9 provinces and have reached an estimated 1.7 million children.
Our funding for the iMatter program in South Africa has ended, but our work isn’t done. In the last year of our grant, we were working to complete the program’s transition to the South African Department of Education. While they have been supportive of the program throughout its time in South Africa, the transition process has not been easy. We are working to raise additional funds to keep on one or two iMatter staff members who could maintain contact with the Department of Education to assist them as they learn the ropes of implementing iMatter themselves. We’d also like to do some follow-up testing among iMatter learners. We evaluate our programs to determine whether or not they are having the desired impact. Both learners and teachers have been surveyed on their knowledge, attitudes and intentions regarding HIV; however, it would be best if we could perform HIV surveying to determine the effect that iMatter has on the HIV rate.
In addition to these continued efforts in South Africa, we have the opportunity to partner with Scripture Union Kenya to bring iMatter to Kenyan public schools. There are an estimated 1.6 million people living with AIDS, and 1.1 million AIDS orphans in Kenya. iMatter will equip teachers and children to keep the newest generation AIDS-free.