Evaluation of Soul City School and Mass Media Life Skills Education among Junior Secondary School Learners in South Africa

Article excerpt

The study aimed at evaluating Soul City school and mass media life skills education among junior secondary school learners in South Africa using a postintervention design. The sample consisted of 3150 learners, 44.1% were male and 55.9% female, and their mean age was 15.6 yrs (SD=1.6) ranging from 13 to 24 years. Results indicate that Soul City school life skills exposure was positively associated with puberty/body knowledge, HIV knowledge, HIV risk perception, and condom use at last sex. The Soul City life skills mass-media edutainment had mainly a significant positive impact on condom use knowledge, attitudes towards people with HIV/AIDS, self-efficacy, and delaying sex.

In 2002 the estimated national South African human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence rate was 15.5% among adults aged 15-49 years; it was 6% (4% in males and 7% in females) in 15 to 19 year-olds (Shisana & Simbayi, 2002).

Surveys of junior high school students in various countries including South Africa consistently identify significant gaps in adolescents' knowledge of HIV, especially regarding misconceptions about causal transmission and prevention. At the same time, these young people have a high prevalence of behaviors that put them at risk of HIV infection, including early sexual onset, infrequent condom use, and multiple sexual partners (Siegel, DiClemente, Durbin, Krasnovsky & Saliba, 1995; Stewart et al., 2001). Eaton and Flisher (2000) reviewed HIV/AIDS knowledge among South African "youth" aged 14-35 years and found that young people are very aware about the nature of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) but were less knowledgeable about HIV transmission and prevention. Eaton, Flisher and Aaro (2003) reviewed unsafe sexual behavior among South African youth and suggest that at least 50% of young people are sexually active by age of 16, a considerable number had more than one lifetime partner and mostly used condoms irregularly. There was also uncertainty about the proper use of condoms (ibid.).

School-based HIV prevention education has been strongly recommended as a major strategy for increasing adolescents' HIV-related knowledge and prevention behaviors (Siegel et al., 1995). From a review of studies it was found that generally human-sexuality education does not increase the likelihood that students will begin sexual activity earlier (UNAIDS, 1997). Kaya and Mabetoa (1997) studied Black youth in South Africa and note the importance of the mass media - especially television and magazines - as well as friends as the main sources of information about sexual practices. A study of sexuality education programs in South Africa found that youth want more information, including help with decision making and coping skills, and the opportunity for individual counseling with someone they trust (Baue & Steinberg, 1995).

Harrison, Smit and Myer (2000) note that a number of prevention efforts in South Africa have been implemented by the national and provincial governments and various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which include three major areas: information, education and communication, peer education and behavioral risk reduction. "Lovelife", a national youth sexual health initiative, has started a mass media campaign using billboards, newspaper advertisements, radio and other outlets to address sexual and other health issues. Another program, Soul City, is a weekly drama that covers a range of health issues, disseminating basic information about the epidemic and its consequences. Working in conjunction with Soul City, the Departments of Health and Education have developed a national life skills program for Grades 8 through 12, the goal of which is to increase knowledge, develop skills, promote positive and responsible attitudes, and provide motivational supports. Soul City, an NGO, is a multimedia health and development project (television, radio, newspaper, school material) informed by the Soul City theory of social and behavioral change (Soul City, 2001a). …