FutureLife-Now! is a regional programme designed to address the scourge of HIV and the associated challenges related to gender and climate change. To achieve its goal of reducing new HIV infections and increasing adherence to Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) amongst children and youth in the SADC Region, the programme leverages the successful SADC Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) Framework—developed in the early 2000s and which, in 2018, reached over 30 million of the region’s learners with support services.
What makes FutureLife-Now! unique?
It combines three key ingredients necessary for behaviour change amongst youth: (1) knowledge; (2) access to services and support; and (3) agency (power to make decisions and take action)
It brings together two critical elements for human development—education and health— by strengthening linkages between schools and health facilities
Between May 2019 and February 2020, the FutureLife-Now! team conducted a context analysis and a baseline assessment to establish the status of learners’ knowledge and reported behaviour related to HIV prevention and SRH (sexual and reproductive health), and climate change.
Data collection teams, comprising FutureLife-Now! team members and officers from the Ministries of Education, visited each of the 10 pilot schools in the four countries (Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe), where they conducted group interviews with management and teachers, and administered learner questionnaires. They collected data from 22 764 learners (10 391 boys, 12 322 girls and 51 unspecified) across the 40 schools, which represents about 79% of the total enrolment in the outreach schools.
It was encouraging that all outreach schools acknowledged the relevance of the FutureLife-Now! programme in addressing the major issues affecting learners’ lives—in particular, learner pregnancy and the specific needs of male learners.
An important component of the FutureLife-Now! programme is the testing of a package of school-based HIV/SRHR services and support in secondary schools. The medical service fair, facilitated by Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in partnership with FutureLife-Now! and its local partner, the United Methodist Church, made a significant contribution towards this support package.
Held at Murape Secondary School in Mashonaland East Province on 11 and 12 March, the aim of the fair was to bring medically-related services to the community. In such events, partnerships are key. Members of the United Methodist Church employed in various medical fields—from nurses, doctors, pharmacists and counsellors—worked as a team to source medicines and medical and other equipment for use during the outreach event. Other partners included Chitungwiza Hospital, which provided an ambulance and hospital beds, as well as personnel to assist over the two-day programme. Several pharmacies donated medicines and various medical supplies.
According to the United Nations, the COVID-19 pandemic is a health and human crisis threatening the food security and nutrition of millions of people around the world. MIET AFRICA’s regional programme, FutureLife-Now!, recently provided food parcels to vulnerable learners and their families in Malawi through its humanitarian emergency COVID-19 response project.
With the support of local youth facilitators, Malawi Future-Life Now! In-Country Coordinators provided food parcels to over 700 learners from the 10 FutureLife-Now! schools in Malawi. Food included maize flour, rice, beans, cooking oil, sugar and salt. Hand sanitizer was also provided.
During the distribution, which took place between 3-7 July, COVID-19 precautionary measures were strictly adhered to, such as hand washing, the wearing of masks and social distancing.
In July, the FutureLife-Now! in-country coordinators and youth facilitator in Zambia visited the programme’s pilot schools, located in the Central and Lusaka Provinces. The purpose of the visit was to distribute 3 875 “dignity packs” to learners. The delivery of the packs—which included items such as soap, Dettol, toothpaste, sanitary towels and fruit juice—gave rise to much excitement and joy among the learners (and staff).
The in-country coordinators’ visit to Mukobeko Secondary School to distribute the dignity packs provided the opportunity for feedback on the borehole that had been sunk through the support of FutureLife-Now! Various studies show that a reliable water supply at a school improves learner performance, not least because of improved learner attendance. The head teacher reported that the borehole has significantly improved learners’ lives in a school that despite its high enrolment, previously had no running water. In particular, an adequate supply of water for the ablution blocks has removed what was a hinderance to attendance,
During the FutureLife-Now! baseline survey that was conducted in the pilot schools in Lesotho, a scan of their infrastructure showed that all the schools were in dire need of improvement to their water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. For example, St. Barnabas High, a school with an enrolment of 670 learners, 21 teachers and 19 non-academic staff, has, for the last 18 years, been negatively affected by the shortage of water and in recent years has had no running water at all. The Ministry of Education and the British government had provided JoJo tanks to store water for day-to-day activities, but during the severe drought the borehole dried up. The lack of water posed a real threat to the school’s continued operations, which included various environmentally friendly agricultural initiatives.
Through the climate change component of the FutureLife-Now programme, five kilometres of pipes were purchased, allowing the school to draw water from the Metolong Dam Water Supply Programme.
As climate change specialist, Dr Donald Kamdonyo has noted recently, “climate change has been recognised as one of the biggest challenges that humanity is facing today,” and negatively affects socio-economic sectors across countries. (Malawi Gears Up to Adapt to Climate Change -September 25, 2019). As a primarily agricultural economy that has seen numerous climate-related disasters in recent years, the government of Malawi is well aware of the implications that climate change has for the population’s livelihoods and development. Climate change adaptation is a key priority for the government and numerous civil society organizations to “to increase the resilience of its vulnerable population and ecosystems.”
An important objective of the FutureLife-Now! programme is to equip young people with knowledge and skills that enable them to improve their lives. Earlier this year, the Malawi Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), in collaboration with MIET AFRICA,