mercredi 7 juillet 2010



Title: Say No to AIDS
Author: Tikum Mbah Azonga
Genre: Poetry
Language: English and French but no translations
Discipline: Health Communication
Method of communication: Mass communication
Target readership: Secondary school, high school, university and adults


In the face of the prevailing grim statistics that depict the unprecedented ravages caused by the HIV AIDS pandemic not only in Cameroon but in the rest of Africa notably, it is clear that the world is at the precipice of a major world catastrophe.

In reaction to the daunting deadly disease, various action plans have been put in place by the world community through relevant UN agencies such as UNAIDS, WHO, UNICEF and international NGOs such as PLAN International, the International Red Cross and Save the Children, as well as individual governments. The case of our country, Cameroon, is strongly stated by the former Minister of Public Health, Urbain Olanguena Awono, who in the preface to Say No to AIDS, affirms:

“Pour contrer le drame et le conjurer, notre chef d’Etat, son Excellence Paul Biya, a pris des mesures fortes: guerre totale contre le VIH SIDA, campagnes de sensibilisation musclées, baisse des prix des anti rétroviraux, prise en charge des personnes affectées. Afin de mieux mener ce combat, le chef de l’Etat a, en outre, mis sur pied une structure de coordination de l’action contre la pandémie : le Comité National de Lutte Contre le SIDA (CNLS). »

The book picks up a novel path in the bid to target especially teenagers and young adults who are the most vulnerable members of society as far as the HIV AIDS epidemic is concerned. Say No to AIDS does so through the medium of mass communication. It employs the language of poetry, which like drama and song, fall under what has come to be known as the “folk media” . The idea is to tackle a phenomenon as grave as HIV AIDS not just through education-sensitisation as such but through what some researchers have called “edutainment”. For a vulnerable group of young people such as those we have in secondary schools and institutions of higher education like the University of Buea, this approach can be quite appropriate.

Say No to AIDS is conveniently broken up into five main thematic sections: prevention, voluntary testing and counselling, care of the infected, support of the affected, and living with AIDS. Poems that fall under each section are thrown into that section, regardless of which of the two official languages (English or French) they are written in. Viewed from another perspective, this notion of bilingual poems being laid out thematically rather than linguistically constitutes a new approach to bilingual publishing in Cameroon. So far, publishing bilingually had meant publishing in one language and then turning the book around and publishing in the other language such that one of the two covers of the publication is in English and the other in French. In the case of the print media though, it has been common to find a few articles in English sprinkled on a limited number of pages of some French publications.

Systematically in Say No to AIDS, poems are subtitled, to give the reader a quick gist of what is going on in the poem. Randomly selected examples among the English poems: Our plight (A universal problem) on page 12, Only one me (The body, God’s temple) on the same page, Beware (A big threat) on page 14, Kill (Trust no one), page 15; Pregnant and afraid (Test to protect your baby), page 22; Who is next? (No one is safe), page 27; Eyewitness (Recalling the death of an AIDS husband), page 53; and Farewell (Separation from a dead lover), page 52. Among the French poems one can cite Le Village du SIDA (Peuple abruti), page 49; Tante Isabelle (Une femme affectée), page 49; Nécrologie 2 (Victime du SIDA), page 48; Ensemble (Fidélité envers une victime), page 46; J’attends (Le SIDA tueur des rêves), page 45; Paradoxe (Epouse d’un sidéen décédé), page 44, and La Fondation Chantal Biya (L’œuvre gigantesque d’une dame de cœur), page 40.

As a pedagogic tool, Say No to AIDS can have limitless uses. Not only can students work on poems in their first Foreign Language but also, they can study the second Foreign Language through the poetry of that language. In this way, cross-boarder interaction or what is more commonly known in research as multidisciplinary pedagogy is enhanced. The icing on the cake comes from the fact that since no poem in the collection is a translation of the other, each poem having been written in the language in which it is published, whatever poem the reader chooses to look at is “new”.

Concerning the applicability of the work, the author says: “Say No to AIDS is a practical work of art, written for everyone and anyone, and conceived such that it can be used by readers at all levels. Teachers can use some of the poems as stimuli for classroom exercises or in HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns. It is possible to extract part or all of a poem and use it as a slogan that can be recited by pupils or students, made into a label and stuck on home windows and doors, vehicles or even bags. Musicians can select some poems and compose songs that can be listened to or danced, just as dramatists can adapt some for school or community theatre”.

The ultimate aim of the book is to carry the message therein to as many victims and potential victims of HIV AIDS as possible. We hope that this approach of HIV AIDS awareness creation through mass communication, which is an aspect of health communication, will go a long way towards attaining that objective.

copyright 2010

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