Tawanda Chisango

Project Coordinator, Patsimeredu Edutainment Trust

This 8-page paper maps out the background of the Patsimeredu Edutainment Trust - how it uses edutainment, and lessons learned from their experience. The paper explains the Patsimeredu concept and aims to provide a guide for other organisations to develop their own programmes as well as creating a better understanding for organisations wanting to work with the Trust.

The paper first provides a background to how edutainment has been used to address HIV/AIDS. It argues that, despite the potential uses of theatre for HIV/AIDS education, this potential has not been fully utilised.

The author states that while mass education campaigns aimed at changing individual behaviours play an essential role in AIDS prevention, they are highly unlikely to be successful or sustainable unless they are accompanied by deep rooted social changes. These will only result from internally driven change processes, including informed and inclusive public debate, which take into account the following factors:

  • Sustainability of social change is more likely if the individuals and communities most affected own the process and content of communication;
  • Communication for social change should be empowering, horizontal (versus top down), gives a voice to the previously unheard members of the community, and is biased towards local content and ownership;
  • Communities should be the agents of their own change;
  • Emphasis should shift from persuasion and the transmission of information from outside technical experts to dialogue, debate and negotiation on issues that resonate with members of the community;
  • Emphasis on outcomes should go beyond individual behaviour to social norms, policies, culture and the supporting environment;
  • The greatest weapon that humanity has remains humanity's most unique characteristic-communication;
  • An overwhelming conclusion from Uganda and other countries, which are success stories, is that the extent to which people talk to each other within communities and between communities, are critical success factors.

The paper explains both Patsimeredu's past and upcoming projects including the 'Buddies for Love' programme, training workshops for theatre groups, and information distribution practices. Patsimeredu is also producing skits (short theatre programmes) on HIV and the workplace; men's involvement in HIV and AIDS prevention and care; HIV and AIDS; and disability and the burden of care with specific focus on women's involvement in care work. These will be televised as part of discussion forums hosted by SAfAIDS (Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service). As well, they are in the process of developing a theatre-training manual.

The paper provides an overview of key target audiences for the edutainment programme. Early adolescence (10-13 years or Grade 5 to Grade 7) is considered to be a critical period as at this age young adults are good at understanding perspective and intent, which makes their world infinitively more complicated. They must negotiate their way through a period of enormous uncertainty that leads to intense information seeking, media use and experimentation. It is further stated that middle school and junior high (form 1 and form 2) represent a last chance for campaign designers to reach many at-risk youth in a traditional setting, because at-risk youth tend to begin dropping out of school. The Patsimeredu experience has shown that adolescents seek solutions, not preaching, and they want to be part of the solution rather than viewed as the problem. As a result, they need to hear messages frequently to counterbalance the frequent pressure they face. A mass medium campaign serves more as a catalyst to direct adolescents to sources of help than as a solution to any problem.

Teachers have also been identified as a key target group as they spend a lot of time with young people and as such, they should be encouraged to integrate health issues into their teaching. The paper further states that universities and technikons have different needs from adolescents, as they are now young adults. As such they need a production of their own that deals with high-risk behaviour issues.

The author concludes that though Theatre for Development is a new concept per se, it borrows a lot from traditional approaches, which makes it acceptable to people. It does not necessarily require argumentative reasoning and argumentation but rather offers opportunities for parallel thinking and as such productive regardless of people's level of intelligence, literacy or educational status.

Click here to download this paper in PDF format.


E-mail sent from Tawanda Chisango to Soul Beat Africa March 24 2004.