Caring for a baby simulator in a primary school classroom is probably an experience very few people have had. For some learners in Cape Town, having a baby simulator in a classroom will soon be a reality. The learners are set to have dolls that simulate the effects of various forms of abuse on babies. The schools will receive a healthy baby simulator, a substance abuse addiction simulator, a foetal alcohol syndrome simulator and a shaken baby syndrome simulator.
The baby simulators and accompanying curriculum are used to teach child abuse prevention programs, parenting or childcare education and teen pregnancy prevention programs.
The city will acquire 32 life-like baby simulators to be given to learners to expand its substance abuse prevention programme and teach learners about the effects of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome on babies. The expansion follows a successful pilot project in May in which six primary schools were identified, reaching 120 Grade Seven learners.
The programme is part of a series of life skills interventions at schools and includes topics like “bullying and substance abuse prevention…specifically drinking during pregnancy, and emphasises the importance of abstinence and safe sexual practices”.
These topics seem heavy for learners but according to the city’s mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, Suzette Little, “the reality is that in some cases, young children are being exposed to and engaging in sexual activities and substance abuse”.
The need for life skills and parenting education is also illustrated by the teenage pregnancy and child abuse rates.
“Recent reports around the debate about condom distribution in schools indicated that there were more than 2 500 pregnant learners in our province at the end of last year – 78 of them in primary school. Teen binge drinking is another concern and so it is important for us to engage with learners about these topics. We can’t simply put our heads in the sand and pretend that these issues don’t exist,” Little said.
The extended programme will be implemented in each of the eight districts covering areas such as Khayelitsha, Parkwood, Bothasig and Nomzamo.