Sick puppets make for healthy school kids

The difference between diseases children can easily catch from one another, like flu, and those they can’€™t, like HIV/AIDS is the subject of a new play, “Inside Out”, produced by the Arepp Educational Trust.

The Trust uses Muppet-style puppets to teach children how to deal with people living with HIV/AIDS. “Inside Out” is aimed at junior primary school children and is touring English and Afrikaans schools in the Western Cape for the next few weeks. It will return to tour other English and Xhosa-speaking schools in May and June.

However, the producers say that they’€™ve had a luke warm reception from some “white” schools. “They say, HIV/AIDS is not a problem in our area,” says Janis Merand, Arepp Educational Trust tour organiser, “or that it’€™s not an appropriate topic for little kids.”

“The implication is that it’€™s happening to black kids only. This is the very kind of discrimination regarding AIDS that the play is trying to tackle from a child’€™s point of view. The play isn’€™t showing the horror of AIDS; it’€™s showing that it’€™s still safe to play with a child who has AIDS. HIV/AIDS is becoming everyone’€™s problem, and it’€™s important to cultivate these values at such an early age, ” says Merand.

“Inside Out” features MacMonkey, who has a cold and learns how to avoid germs from Doctor Hippo. So when Lindy Leopard tells him she has “that AIDS thing” he runs away because she has germs and is “dirty”. Lindy Leopard is left alone; she cannot convince MacMonkey that you can’€™t catch HIV/AIDS the same way you catch colds and flu.

MacMonkey finally understands that Lindy does not have germs. She has “sick soldier cells” and playing with her will not make MacMonkey sick. He also learns that, “Friends are friends; no matter what.”

Dealing sensitively with sick children is not the only theme in this story. The show also looks at what keeps us healthy and what makes us sick in general. It teaches kids why basic hygiene and healthy eating are so important. MacMonkey teaches everyone to sing, “If your bodies happy, you are too.”

“The intent is to sensitively, but sensibly, foster the concept of “It’€™s my body” and prepare for physical responsibility and awareness, while introducing the notion of “sick” people and tackling discrimination,” says Annette Brokensha, Production Manager of Arepp.

The 30-minute performance is energetic and full of fun. The puppets interact with the audience throughout and the show is followed by a question and answer session. The puppets tell their story in either English or Afrikaans till the 3rd of March and in Xhosa or English from 22 May to 22 June. Prices are negotiable. For more information and to book, call Annette Brokensha ‘€“ 083 4401283. – Health-e news service


  • Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla

    Bibi-Aisha is an award-winning journalist whose career spans working in radio, television, and development. Previously, she worked for eNCA as a specialist science reporter, and the SABC as the Middle East foreign correspondent, and SAfm current affairs anchor. Her work has appeared on Al-Jazeera, The British Medical Journal, The Guardian, IPS, Nature, and Daily News Egypt. She’s been awarded reporting fellowships from the Africa-China Reporting Project, Reuters Foundation, National Press Foundation, International Women’s Media Foundation. Pfizer/SADAG, and the World Federation of Science Journalists. She’s currently an Atlantic Tekano Fellow For Health Equity 2021.

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