Adult Version 1.0. Upgrades available.

Adult Version 1.0. Upgrades available. If only it were as simple as that. The reality is that – regardless of whether you grew up in a first-world or third-world setting – there is no standard “life coaching” curriculum. Some of us will have had a proactive parent, or a biology teacher that wasn’t shy, or even a specific class in school. The birds and the bees 101.

But for others the reality was very different. Sex education was overlooked, and you were left to fend for yourself.

Now imagine your reality was the latter, no sex education, and, on top of that, you lived in an area of the world that has one of the highest rates of HIV and teenage pregnancy, not to mention a plague of other sexually transmitted infections.

Based on this reality, Linky Nkuna, Good Work Foundation’s Centre Coordinator at Madlala Digital Learning Centre, recently organised a life skills workshop for the students of Madlala High School. This is her story.


Kate Groch

I grew up in Justicia village (rural South Africa), and I work with the students at Madlala High School on a daily basis. I know how the culture of a conservative African village works. Oftentimes, for example, the extent of a mother’s words when her daughter opens up about her first period is:

“All you have to know about your period is, when it starts, don’t play with boys.”

That’s where it stops.

Parents still don’t talk to their kids about sex, the human body, or changes the body will go through during adolescence (a young mother once told me that she believes talking about “it” will encourage her daughter to have sex). The subject is considered TABOO. And so we have rampant myths, like “eat raw eggs to bring your period on” and “don’t use a condom. It’s a waste of sperm and it reduces your performance.”

Imagine. In a society where HIV is tearing families apart, that a common belief is that condoms reduce performance and “manliness”.

Our approach to education at Good Work Foundation is holistic. Great if you can drive a computer, but it won’t help if you’re unable to navigate life as an adult, with knowledge about the human body.

Life skills coaching is needed in our rural spaces. So is open dialogue and communication. So we arranged for Busi Mkhumbuzi, a V-Girls activist and Good Work Foundation ambassador, to run three days of workshops for the students at Madlala High School, where the focus was on menstruation, safe sex and pregnancy.

We wanted to create discussion-based forums that were informal and were “safe” enough for the teenagers to be able to share their experiences and ask questions.

The sessions were candid and eye-opening. Our kids are engaged in sexual activity without understanding the implications of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

One of our young, talented students reported: “I didn’t understand what my mother meant [when she told me not to play with boys] and therefore didn’t take her seriously. The following year I got pregnant but not from “playing” with boys. I was in a relationship. Now I have a son at 19.”

Have a look at the following video, an excerpt from Busi’s workshop with a group of girls who have started menstruating:

It’s not all bad news though. Madlala is unique. The learners here are engaging in dialogue more and more, and they’re embracing a world in which information and resources are available to them. A world where they are empowered.

One young man mentioned that he knows he needs to learn about the body, about sex, about girls. And he uses Google to access this information. We all know that’s not ideal, but it’s something. It’s a start.

At Madlala, we’re breaking the silence. Girls must know their value beyond sex. Boys must learn to respect the rights and bodies of women.

We are planning another workshop in which doctors, nurses and counsellors build upon this fantastic campaign. We have made it clear to this community of learners that there are people who will listen and not laugh.

On Busi’s final afternoon a group of learners did something quite extraordinary. They gathered in a small classroom, took a deep breath and sang a song which they dedicated to Busi. The appreciation that comes across in this video is startling. You can feel the love, the thanks, the sense of “we’re in this together, let’s lift our heads up high and help one another, every step of the way.”

We are family. We are teachers. We are parents. Certainly, we’re in this together.

Lots of love,

Linky Nkuna
Centre Coordinator, Madlala Digital Learning Centre