|Adapting the Education Sector to the Advent of HIV/AIDS (Meeting document) (UNAIDS, 2000, 8 p.)|
There has been striking growth in recent years in concern about the impact of HIV/AIDS on education. There has also been exponential growth in initiatives to deal with the problem, particularly at the level of curriculum interventions in schools and of programmes directed towards out-of-school youth. But as would be obvious to anybody who has been following the excellent UNDP HIV-Impact e-mail discussion, there is little coordination among or between these interventions and initiatives. Individuals, organisations and agencies are experimenting without always knowing what the successful and less successful experiences of others have been. There is a pervasive sense of selfless dedication and commitment, boundless hope moderated by agonising desperation, but all shot through with limited knowledge of what has been tried elsewhere. It is almost as if, not being quite sure what to do, people feel that doing something would be better than doing nothing.
Because of the way HIV/AIDS has wormed itself into the heart of communities, it seems almost certain that it is through communities that responses must develop, and that these responses will reflect the diversity of communities. But the success of such community-developed responses will depend heavily on incorporating knowledge and practices that have been found to be successful in similar situations elsewhere.
This is as true for interventions developed within the education sector as for those in other areas. What this calls for is a profound understanding of the problems the epidemic poses for the sector and a coordinated understanding of successful initiatives. This is an area where the aid agencies could be of significant help. At national, regional and international levels, they can stimulate and support the development of a comprehensive knowledge base for HIV/AIDS and education. This implies
· enabling education ministries and other providers of educational services to develop better understanding of what the epidemic is doing or could do to the sector;
· bringing together and synthesising information on what has been tried, what works and what does not work;
· sharing information and understanding within and between countries.
The success of such cooperation would depend heavily on the full and equal involvement of non-governmental and community-based organisations, since these are the main delivery agents for interventions to out-of-school youth. Coping with the multitudinous effects of HIV/AIDS on education necessitates a closer alliance between these organisations and the formal school system, so that together they present a united front through mutually supportive actions, initiatives, messages, and methodologies.