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Reusable menstrual pads keep Matabeleland girls in school

Guidance and counselling lessons in schools have helped disadvantaged girls in Matabeleland Province to acquire sanitary wear and keep the at school, an official has said.

Chairperson of the Matabeleland North Guidance and Counseling Life Skills Teachers Association (MANGACLISETA) Gabriella Chikara told CITE that through guidance and counselling sessions, they managed to overcome challenges faced by the girl child pertaining to menstrual health care.

“All our programs are in harmony with our guidance and counselling mantra which states that we look at the needs of the learner holistically, that is, academically spiritually, health-wise only but to mention a few,” she said.

Chikara said to address the menstrual health problem, there was an introduction of a sister to sister program where young girls were taught how to make reusable pads.

She said the program was spearheaded at Mahlothova secondary school in Umguza and now most schools across Matabeleland provinces have embarked on it and communities at large are benefitting from it.

“It was through guidance and counselling sessions that we figured out the girl’s child challenges. The economic situation is difficult and parents can not afford to buy them for their children,” said Chikara.

“We learned that some girls would dig pits and sit on them to bleed in, then they cover the pits when they are done. Some would use leaves while others would use old pieces of cloths. Such challenges would cause discomfort to the girl child it would affect her even to an extent of not coming to school up until the time she finishes her cycle.”

Chikara noted that during the guidance and counselling lessons they teach the girls how to clean their reusable pads, for how long they can recycle them.

“Through our learners, we reach out to the community at large which has now become reliant on reusable pads especially in the rural areas. Both boys and girls are taught on the hygiene methods of using these pads and when they get back to their families and communities they can share the knowledge they would have attained from school,” she said.

Chikara added that through these sessions learners are taught etiquette at school, at home and in the community.

“We thrive to nurture a community with respectable people. We, therefore, teach our learners how to carry themselves around with dignity and respect,” she said

Meanwhile, Provincial Education Director for Matabeleland North, Jabulani Mpofu has described guidance and counselling as a pivotal subject in schools that needs to be undertaken with the seriousness it deserves.

Mpofu reiterated that learners go through a lot of emotional distress and it is through guidance and counselling sessions that teachers are expected to intervene and assist them.

PED Mpofu said taking up guidance and counselling in schools is a mammoth task as teachers have to deal with learners who come from various backgrounds with various challenges.

He said to ensure the subject is taken seriously, there is a need to have a District Inspector for it.

“Teachers who take up this subject should be strong-willed and treat it with the seriousness it deserves. Challenges faced nowadays are intense as there are many child-headed families and problems with alcohol and substance abuse,” said Mpofu.

“To show how necessary guidance and counselling is got learners, let’s look at the recent case of a grade 7 learner from Harare who committed suicide because she had failed her final exams. These children need help more than we realise,” said Mpofu.

“Teachers must not be just given the responsibility of taking up guidance and counselling to so that they can have work to do, but they should be given the responsibility because they are capable of reaching out to learners and help them to overcome challenges they face at home, school or society.”

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