In an effort to educate and empower young people in the fight against HIV and AIDS across Sierra Leone, 18 secondary school drama groups in Moyamba District and 5 in Makeni are competing for the title of Salone Drama Idol 2008.
Drama Idol targets secondary school students to establish safe practices early on in life because these youth are a high-risk group for HIV infection. Organizers hope to end the cycle of risky behaviours before HIV infections can occur.
The school groups are now competing against each other for the title of Salone Drama Idol on a weekly UN radio show, which includes positive music, the HIV radio drama, discussion and phone-in commentary in order to promote community dialogue on various issues surrounding HIV and AIDS.
Holding the competition has not been an easy task for organizers, who have experienced first hand the apathy many young people have towards HIV/AIDS programs. “It was difficult to get the kids excited at first with yet another NGO’s HIV sensitization campaign. Once they realized their voices would be heard across the country, they got excited”, said Grant Fuller, Coordinator of the Makeni based Drama Idol school groups.
Each drama is judged and graded in three categories: content, or how much and how accurately information was communicated, the plot, or if the storyline was realistic and finally the quality of the characters in the play. Listeners of the show participate by text messaging comments to the show and choosing their favourite drama.
According to Project Coordinator of Drama Idol Sierra Leone, Dale Crenshaw, the program is designed to “reengage existing peer health groups and get teachers to start thinking about health and sexual education.”
Moyamba District Children's Advocacy Radio (MODCAR) and Radio Maria have been airing the 20 minute dramas, written and performed by youth for youth, to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and services available in Sierra Leone.
A selection of the dramas have been uploaded onto the radio internet site 'Radiowaves' where young people from the UK and around the world can listen and have their say.
The competition for best HIV/AIDS themed radio drama is airing across the country on UN radio every Tuesday at 9:15AM, repeated on Saturdays at 4:00PM.