RealCare Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Programme
When an anonymous feedback form revealed that teenagers in her class really wanted to get to deal with the topic sex and the consequences thereof, SAHETI School Life Orientation Teacher Elize-Helé Kieser decided not to go the usual route of using flour sacks or eggs. Instead, she chose use one of Realityworks RealCare Baby infant simulators to give her students the most realistic experience of parenthood available.
“What I have discovered is that just telling kids about something is not good enough,” said Kieser. “They need some kind of real experience to make the information sink in fully.”
Kieser has been a teacher at SAHETI School, a Greek school that offers individualistic education to students from 26 different ethnicities, for seven years. When she began teaching Life Orientation, Kieser found that students were not very open to discussing issues they faced or topics they were interested in our curious about.
While researching methods of teaching sex education in a non-threatening way, Kieser came across Realityworks’ RealCare Baby programme, which has been successfully running in the USA, Australia, the United Kingdom and Mexico for several years. Research has shown that the RealCare programme offers a highly effective approach to preventing teenage pregnancies and teaching valuable parenting skills that can be used later in life. The testimonials from real teachers using the programme convinced Kieser that this was exactly what the students in her Life Orientation class needed. Armed with evidence-based research on the RealCare programme, Kieser presented her proposal to the school board and was successful in obtaining funding for the RealCare Baby Starter Pack, which features one of the most technologically advanced infant simulators in the world.
Advanced Baby Simulation Technology
During a simulation, the RealCare Baby’s appearance and behaviours replicate those of a real baby. The caregiver must provide proper infant care like feeding, burping, rocking and changing, all according to a schedule pre-programmed by the instructor. Several schedules of varying difficulty are available, each of which is based on the experiences of real-life parents. An internal computer records the caregiver’s response to each care event, as well as ambient temperature, clothing and time spent in the car seat. At the end of the simulation, the RealCare Baby communicates wirelessly with the control centre software on the instructor’s computer, and creates a report on the participant’s performance.
During the pilot phase of the programme in 2013, Kieser wanted as many students to experience the RealCare Baby as possible. Because she had only a single unit, however, Kieser initially sent the Baby home with each student for one night only.
“Students who have taken the baby home thus far have given very interesting feedback in terms of their experience as a parent for one night,” said Kieser. “Most of them said that they were very relieved that they were only expected to take him home overnight.”
Kieser also incorporated selected aspects of the included RealCare curriculum into her classes. She has taught a variety of topics, including the impact of having sex at a young age, pregnancy, the implications of caring for young children, STDs, the effects of substance abuse on infants, self-esteem issues and the emotional impact of broken relationships.
Although many of the staff and parents were initially skeptical about the programme, Kieser found that once it began, the impact of the experience on the entire school community has been extremely positive.
“Many teachers have now come back and asked me how the program is running and what the feedback has been,” stated Kieser. “It shows that the students have been discussing their experiences in other lessons and this has sparked interest among teachers and students alike.”
Faced with the many pressures and time-constraints of being an educator in South Africa, Kieser has found that the most beneficial thing for her about the programme is the RealCare assessment report that the software generates for each student.
“I can show the students exactly when, where and why they lost the marks and in many instances they remember the time exactly as it is recorded,” she said. “A huge bonus of this is that it cuts down on marking time as I have a mark provided by the computer.”
Following the success of the intital phase, Kieser was able to expand the programme with the addition of two babies, to allow more students to go through the experience over a longer period of time.
“For me the success of the program is clearly visible already,” she stated. “I had students at the start of the whole journey telling me that it would never work and they don’t know if it would be worth their time… they are now some of the programme’s biggest fans and this is what motivates me to expand the program further.”