A group of Grade 10 students has learned from experience that, while drugs and alcohol may seem cool to take initially, their long-term impact is anything but.
To help the class of 20 learners understand the effects of potentially dangerous substances, Vision AfriKa class coordinator, Zukisa Xegwana, used experiential learning techniques in order to raise awareness of the issues and make them appear more real.
“People talk about these things in school, church and on TV, but it seems remote and the learners ignore it. So I wanted them to experience it a little bit for themselves,” Xegwana said.
As a result, at the start of the session, he began by spraying the Vision AfriKa classroom with Insect spray.
He had asked one of four student volunteers from the University of Stellenbosch to stand in front of the door to prevent the learners from leaving and another to move in front of the window to stop it from being opened.
When the learners became anxious and started to scream, Xegwana put the Insect spray can down and began to spray air freshener instead. At first, they were happy with the change, but by the time, he moved onto the third can, they were screaming and asking him to stop again.
Xegwana explained the rationale behind the move: “The reason that I sprayed the Insect spray was that I wanted to show them how people react towards well-known dangerous substances. Using the air freshener was then meant to show how people respond to apparently harmless ones.”
The idea was that, although the class enjoyed smelling the air freshener at first, the experience became negative when Xegwana overdid it and sprayed too much.
“It’s very similar to when people start smoking and drinking. It seems cool to them at first, but they’re not thinking about the long-term repercussions,” he said.
Next Xegwana asked the learners to organise themselves into small groups in order to discuss the experience. After their findings had been presented to the rest of the class, he introduced ‘substance abuse’ as a formal topic and linked it to what they had felt about the initial spraying activity.
When asked what substances they would be afraid to even try, most said tic, cocaine and mandrax, which Xegwana compared to Insect spray. The substances that they considered cool, however, were cigarettes and cider drinks, which he equated to the insidious effects of the air freshener.
For more info about the Vision K 10ers Programme email [email protected]