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close this bookAdapting the Education Sector to the Advent of HIV/AIDS (Meeting document) (UNAIDS, 2000, 8 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAbstract
View the documentCome to Grips with the Magnitude of the HIV/AIDS Crisis
View the documentBreak the Silence
View the documentAdopt a Multisectoral Approach
View the documentLearn from a Coordinated Understanding of Best Practices
View the documentThe Need for Radical New Thinking
View the documentConclusion

Adopt a Multisectoral Approach

The third principle is the importance of adopting a multisectoral approach that brings together health, education, community development, social welfare, labour and other sectors; that builds alliances between the public and private sectors; that establishes coalitions which involve ministries, communities, civil society, and the business, industrial and farming world. By now it is a truism that HIV/AIDS is more than a health problem. Undoubtedly, it has massive health dimensions, but it is because of these that it cuts across all sectors and areas of human endeavour, particularly those like education which are highly person- or labour-intensive.

HIV/AIDS is an attack on society as a whole. Hence, it is society as a whole that must respond to its onslaught. This calls for an integrated approach which works along three dimensions. First, each sector evaluates how it is affected. This implies a good situation analysis and sound information There is no gainsaying the need for these. Second, in cooperation with related sectors and drawing collaboratively on their resources, the sector takes action to cater for the impacts in the most creative and proactive manner possible. Third, once more in cooperation with relevant sectors, the sector takes action directed at the containment of the disease and the limitation of its transmission.

Important areas of cooperation for education are with health, community development, and human resource planning.

Cooperation with Health Services

Whether the context is that of formal or non-formal provision of education, there is need for appropriate health services which are user-friendly and which can provide those in education systems, institutions and programmes with the necessary hard and soft medical support: hard support, in the form of drugs, medicines and prophylactics; soft support, in the form of advice and counselling. Since young people form the principal clientele for educational services, this implies the availability of medical services that can respond in a supportive, understanding, non-judgmental way to the needs and problems of young people from schools and educational programmes. And to have their most beneficial impact for school-going children, these services should somehow be integral to the work of the school, be highly prized and supported by the school authorities, receive regular visits from them, be involved in their staff meetings and school assemblies, and at appropriate points feed into the actual instructional and assessment programmes.

Cooperation with Community Development Services

There are several aspects to collaborative HIV/AIDS interactions between schools and community development.

· This collaboration is crucially important if reproductive and sexual health are to be integrated into the school curriculum in ways that will empower young people to adopt behaviour that will reduce their risk of infection. Alleged or real parental and community concerns may freeze this important area out of the curriculum altogether. Perhaps even worse, these concerns (compounded by inadequate teacher preparation) frequently lead to its being dealt with in so superficial and theoretical a manner that it stimulates the very activity which it should be helping to control. Community and social development personnel have an important role to play in helping parents and communities appreciate that the very survival of their children depends in large measure on their receiving realistic reproductive and sexual health education that will enable them to form socially correct attitudes which, in turn, will lead to behaviour that is protective of self and others.

· Community development personnel are also needed as the eyes and ears of the school, with whom the school authorities should work closely in responding to the special health and poverty problems being experienced in AIDS-affected families and to making special provision for orphans suffering disorientation or isolation, for children who are in charge of households, for girls who are caring for the sick.

· One other broad area for collaboration between health and community workers on the one hand and providers of education on the other is in capitalising on the enormous pool of human compassion and dedication that exists among young people by facilitating their support for AIDS carers in homes and clinics. This would commit educational institutions to a more serious and reflective response. It would help in moving from silence, fear, stigma and isolation to acceptance, concern and humanity. It would re-affirm the human dignity of those with AIDS. It would strengthen the resolve of many young participants to avoid the risk of infection.

Cooperation with Human Resource Planners

At a very different level, there is the ever-present need for the education sector to respond to the real needs of society.

· Where the very functioning of society is being undermined through the relentless erosion of skilled and experienced human resources, as is happening through HIV/AIDS, the education sector must ask what its response should be. Flexibility and versatility should rank higher than ever before in its curriculum objectives. Close interaction with human resource planners will identify areas of skill and expertise that the epidemic is depleting and that must be replenished. While the immediate need for adjustments may well be in the areas of higher education, there will be knock-on effects for education programmes in secondary and primary schools. In certain circumstances, much closer cooperation between industry and schooling may be needed, so that at a very early age young people acquire the skills and can start building up the experience that AIDS has removed.

· Society also has real needs of a different order in the multitude of orphans and children shouldering adult economic responsibilities that the disease casts up on the banks of life. An education system must equip these so that they can live and support themselves fruitfully. In order to do so, it must interact collaboratively with all productive and service sectors-agriculture, industry, the broad spectrum of the informal economy-to determine just what the needs and opportunities are and how it could help young people prepare for these.