|Adapting the Education Sector to the Advent of HIV/AIDS (Meeting document) (UNAIDS, 2000, 8 p.)|
There are certain basic principles which the education sector-indeed, virtually every other sector-must adopt if it is to be proactive in its response to the advent of HIV/AIDS. First and foremost, there is the need to come to grips, in reality as well as in words, with the magnitude of the crisis which the epidemic is creating and the way in which it is destroying the fabric of society. HIV infection systematically destroys the ability of the human body to protect itself. Likewise, high rates of infection systematically destroy the ability of the institutions of society to function. This may be routinely acknowledged in principle, but very rarely so in practice. There may be notional assent to the idea that AIDS could make an education system unworkable, an economic system unproductive, a social system unmanageable. But seldom is there real assent.
This appears strongly in the education sector where, regardless of the rhetoric, the approach seems to be that, in spite of the problems, it can still be business as usual. The only requirements are some more resources and a few more action plans; these, it seems to be thought, will suffice for managing the AIDS crisis in much the same way as they suffice for managing other crises affecting the sector. Politicians, policy-makers, planners and practitioners alike appear to believe that tinkering with elements of the system will enable it to survive the onslaught of HIV/AIDS. They show limited appreciation of the fact that HIV/AIDS is qualitatively and quantitatively different from every other crisis or malady that has affected the system or individuals in it. The magnitude of the impact has not come home to them. Notwithstanding the evidence, the majority fail to perceive the emerging chaotic conditions in education systems in terms of demand, supply, clientele, resources, and planning. Education ministries, systems, institutions, are sick. But do they appreciate how very sick they really are? Are they aware that, as their personnel die, they too are dying?
HIV/AIDS is destroying education as traditionally known by undercutting the demand for educational services. This is because:
· There are fewer children to educate (due to there being fewer women in child-bearing ages, the AIDS-related reduced fertility of these women, mother to child transmission, more child deaths).
· There are stagnating or declining school enrolments.
· Because of AIDS, many children are unable to meet educational costs.
· Parents are questioning the value of investing in the education of children and young people who may survive for only a few years.
· Children who should be in school are needed in the home to provide care or to substitute for adults.
· The special household, caretaking role associated with girls places their opportunities for education under special threat.
HIV/AIDS is destroying the ability of the education system to supply its mandated services. This is so because:
· There is a large increase in teacher deaths.
· Episodes of personal sickness are leading to frequent teacher absences, reduced work capacity when present, and general decline in productivity.
· There is further extensive teacher absenteeism due to family sicknesses and funerals.
· There is a disproportionate effect on the punctuality/attendance/performance of female teachers.
· Those who should be ensuring the supply of educational services-teacher educators, managers, planners, administrators-are equally affected by the disease.
HIV/AIDS is having a chaotic impact on the potential clientele for education. This is due to:
· A massive increase in orphan numbers.
· The undue psychological and social vulnerability experienced by orphans, and children from AIDS-affected families.
· Orphans being frequently blocked off from educational participation.
· Children of school-going age finding themselves left in sole charge of households.
· School-aged children being required to become economically active for family support or to substitute in other ways for adults.
· The increasing burden of care for sick adults that is falling on children, especially girls.
· The substantial increase in the number of street children in urban centres and of out-of-school children, in both urban and rural areas, who see schooling as having neither reality nor relevance.
HIV/AIDS is steadily cutting away at the resource base for education. This happens because:
· By reducing the number of tax-payers, impacting negatively on productivity through the sickness and death of qualified and experienced personnel, and occasioning public disinvestment and a lowering in savings, HIV/AIDS is reducing the national income, and thereby the public resources for all sectors, education included.
· Other competing claims for public resources (health, AIDS-care, welfare, benefits) limit their availability for education.
· Household incomes are declining because of the death or reduced employability of wage-earners and the reduced potential of self-employed household members to generate income.
· There is increased commitment of limited household resources to expenditures on the sick, on palliative care, on funerals.
· Employers and insurance providers are experiencing difficulties in paying mandatory sickness and terminal benefits.
HIV/AIDS is ravaging the ability of the education sector to plan for and manage itself. This occurs because:
· There is a loss of experienced planners and managers just at the time when their expert services are most badly needed.
· Education systems are poorly informed about the inroads that HIV/AIDS is making on the sector and its institutions and suffer from an almost total lack of an epidemic-based educational management information system.
· Where projections are not AIDS-sensitive, the sector suffers from distorted planning.
· The loss of planning and management personnel has weakened the sectors capacity to deal with the problem of replacing lost, experienced, qualified personnel (teachers and others).
· In general terms, the loss of senior personnel has reduced the sectors capacity to strategise for educational development in the context of HIV/AIDS, so that it can
® cope with impacts,
® reduce transmission,
® determine what form education should take in order to respond to the needs of orphans and others who cannot attend school in the traditional way; and
® determine what form education should take in order to respond to the needs of a skills-depleted society.