Using role play to help children understand and cope with Ebola

Using role play is a powerful way to make sure that children are understanding the facts about Ebola. It is also a powerful way to get children to take dry ‘facts’ and weave them into a story that is close to situations they know and understand. Role plays are often fun to make and to watch – even about serious subjects.

Adults must be careful not to OVER CONTROL the development of the role plays. They work best when children are given a situation and then given time (30-40 minutes) to develop and practice the role play. If the subject of the role play is very sensitive then it can be better to use puppets and make sure that the children can be supported and comforted if the role plays are likely to make children sad.

There will be many different situations that children are facing in Ebola affected communities and they can act these out – for example role plays that show what they are afraid of.

A good type of role play to do to make sure that children are learning and can share facts well is to set up a role play where on character  is knowledgeable and one is ignorant or who believes in certain ‘myths’ – for example the need to give a baby water to drink in hot weather when they are younger than 6 months (exclusive breastfeeding is right for the baby).

Two children can act out a discussion as if they are neighbours exchanging views. This can be very funny to watch and it is very good for learning too.

Here is a photo that show two boys acting out the parts of a mother whose baby is well fed, healthy and growing well (‘she’ is cradling the big parrot) and a mother who is bottle feeding her baby (‘she’ is cradling the small parrot).

Note that the dialogue is being developed by two 10-year-old boys.

Two Boys Role Play on The Merits of Exclusive Breastfeeding
Two Boys Role Play on The Merits of Exclusive Breastfeeding

When they performed the role play the facts were very accurate and the boys made it very funny too so we were all learning AND laughing.

Here is another photo where the ‘mothers’ have different dialogues about the best ways to feed baby according to the age on the sign being held up by the child in the middle. This is very important for children in the community where we are working as the children have a lot of responsibility for feeding younger siblings during the day when their parents are farming.

Please send us your photos of children developing and performing role plays and we can share them with our community.

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