|The Somaliland Times|
|ISSUE 42 November 9, 2002||
Aids Education Fails to Change Behaviour
November 2, 2002
The East African Standard (Nairobi)- HIV/AIDS education in schools in Sub-Saharan Africa has failed to effect behavior change despite high levels of knowledge among primary and secondary school pupils.
Researchers at the University of Sussex in Britain say there is little evidence to show that school-based HIV/AIDS education has had major impact on sexual behavior. The report of the study on the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on education sector in sub-Saharan Africa has criticized curriculum design and delivery of HIV/AIDS education.
"The issue is that lack of time, resources and training meant that curriculum based education as well as counseling and peer education were inadequate," says Nicola Swain son of the Center for International Education of the University of Sussex.
The study that was carried in Uganda, Malawi and Botswana argues that the poorly trained teachers were shy to teach sex education and others lacked commitment to teach topics in an already over-crowded and examination-driven curriculum.
Schools were found to offer little support for children affected by HIV/AIDS and there was insufficient guidance from education ministries and a lack of resources to carry out any support programmes. However, this is the case in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where most governments have been slow to respond to the teenage -AIDS crisis.
The study found that AIDS epidemic was on the increase among school children in Sub-Saharan Africa and will impact negatively on education in the region. "Economic and socio-cultural pressures that fuel unsafe sex among adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa remain as high as ever," says Paul Bennell, the team leader of the study.
Consequently, the report noted there is growing concern about the risk of female pupils contracting HIV from teachers and other older men. The study concurred with earlier findings by UNAIDS that showed dramatic HIV/AIDS increase among girls aged 15-19 in most cities across Sub-Saharan Africa.
But the main worry is that despite the mounting concern about the vulnerability of pupils in contracting HIV/AIDS, there is limited information on how to make an assessment of the extent to which teenagers would change their sexual behavior in response to the AIDS threat, says the report. The situation is bleak as AIDS cases among students in Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to rise in the next decade.
"Without appropriate levels of support school enrolment will drop considerably in the region," says Swain son, who was the co-coordinator of the internationally funded study. The researchers projected that if the current trend continued, by 2010 between 30-40 per cent pupils in Sub-Saharan Africa will be AIDS-orphans and drop out rate will be enormous.
And in an effort to combat the epidemic, the report recommended that schools should be made to become the focus of prevention of HIV/AIDS. Ministries of education were urged to develop a professional cadre of full-time sex and family life education teachers in both primary and secondary schools and that there should be regular time-tabled lessons for this subject for all children right from the start of the primary education cycle.
The report noted the emphasis should be combined with integration of sex education in the curriculum. "While HIV/AIDS education in schools should focus on sexual abstinence, the role of condoms in preventing infection cannot be ignored," said Bennell.