|Adapting the Education Sector to the Advent of HIV/AIDS (Meeting document) (UNAIDS, 2000, 8 p.)|
It cannot be repeated too often that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is qualitatively different to anything that humanity has hitherto experienced. This being so, dealing with it transcends traditional paradigms, conceptual frameworks, models or whatever. New wineskins are needed to contain this new corrosive reality. New ways of thinking are required. New models of educational provision must be envisioned.
More than thirty years ago, social and economic considerations led Ivan Illich to thoughts about deschooling society. A decade later, the rapid transformation of education systems in Sweden and elsewhere led Torsten Husen to remind us that mass schooling as we know it is not a given in human society but was created to respond to the needs of an industrialising society. More recently, UNESCOs International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century has underscored the importance of learning through life and of going beyond the traditional distinction between initial and continuing education. At a more prosaic level, the financial burdens arising from the traditional educational technology of one teacher for every group of thirty to forty pupils are stimulating educational planners in developing countries to look for less costly delivery modes.
But these considerations pale into insignificance in the harsh light of the virtual impossibility of aligning a traditional system of educational delivery with the disrupting impacts of HIV/AIDS. The whole formal education system as we know it is predicated on planned, orderly interaction between teachers, managers and policy-makers on the one hand, and children and their families on the other. But as noted above, by the way it throws all into chaos, the AIDS situation precludes this planned, orderly interaction. Finding a replacement calls for radical new thinking and approaches.
As a minimum, new thinking needs to be developed in relation to
· how to deliver education services so that vulnerable, affected or infected, children and youth can benefit;
· the special initiatives that should be put in place for responding to the special needs of orphans and widows;
· the kind of education that should be provided for all young people in the AIDS-dominated circumstances of human society;
· how to make-good personnel losses through staff replacement, training and deployment;
· how to promote within the system, within institutions and within society extensive sensitisation to the all-pervasive impacts of the disease;
· how to make the institutions and content of education dynamic agents for reducing the spread of HIV infection.