Integrating “Role Play” with other training methods for more effective learning sessions

Delphina Ntangeki

Improvement Advisor, KM and Communications, Tanzania, USAID ASSIST Project/URC

In June, ASSIST Tanzania and the Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare conducted the first Child Protection learning session with Child Protection Committees from three wards of Mkuranga district in the Coast Region. The objective of the learning session was to strengthen child protection systems in the three wards in preventing and responding to child abuse, violence, neglect, and exploitation; and provision of quality services to vulnerable children.

During the learning session, participants were given opportunity to share examples of child abuse incidents that happen in their communities. This made the session very participatory as they had a lot to share including their experience on how they responded to some of the issues.

Following the challenges in addressing child protection issues that we observed during the experience sharing, we thought using role play would make partcipants see how they could deal with these challenges. Actually we did not expect that the idea of using a role play was a brilliant one until the end of the role play, most participants had learned a lot from it.

We picked a role play from a ‘Child Protection Training Manual’ developed by the Department of Social Welfare and we used it to present a topic on how the community could work together to address child protection issues.

We oriented few participants to take part in the role play and their acting was fantastic. The role play was about a 10 year old boy that was blind and deaf. The boy was not going to school due to his condition. His mother wished to see him going to school one day despite his condition, but his father was afraid his son would not be able to study.

Role Play in VCF Learning Session, Tanzania

Participants in a learning sessions acting role play during a child protection learning session at Kimanzichana Ward, in Mkuranga district.

One day, the boy’s mother suggested to her husband that they better visit a Social Welfare Officer as he might be able to help their son go to school. At the meeting, the Social Welfare Officer told the boy’s parents that their son could be able to benefit by attending school as he would meet and interact with other children. The social welfare officer then thought it would be difficult for him to resolve the matter alone and decided to contact a teacher from a local school and a director of a local NGO to see how they could both support the boy.

At the meeting, the teacher agreed that the boy could join the local school saying there were other children who were in the same condition as the boy and were going to school. The NGO director said his organization would support the boy with school supplies and arrange for someone to accompany him to school.

After the role play, we asked the participants to comment on what they saw. “Nothing is impossible. In normal circumstances, I couldn’t imagine this boy getting the opportunity to go to school. Just like the boy’s father, I thought it was not possible,” said one participant who was among those who acted in the role play.

“The community, institutions and community based organizations need to work together to address child protection issues within the community,” another participant responded, adding that, “the boy’s parents couldn’t succeed if it was not for the help of the social welfare officer, the teacher and the director.”

Another participant commented that the role play helped them to understand how to involve other institutions when addressing child protection issues. “Most of us think we could do something alone, but there are issues that we cannot solve without other people’s help.”

Role play is an easy method of training as it makes participants see things in reality. The responses from the participants made me realize that the participants absorb more in watching than they do by listening. I think combining role plays with other methods of training during learning sessions will increase participants’ understanding and make them remember things more easily when doing the actual work.

One of the many things I learned when participants were responding to the role play is the fact that, sometimes we assume that the people we train to lead others know more about issues, but the truth is they don’t; thus making them understand issues before they go to help other is even more pleasing.

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