The HIV/AIDS and Gender Unit
The HIV and AIDS and Gender Unit has been assisting teachers since 2000 to teach learners about HIV and AIDS and how to avoid becoming infected by HIV. The training of teachers consists of more than giving information about HIV.
The epidemic isn’t just about a life-threatening virus; understanding why the HIV statistics are so high in South Africa has resulted in a proliferation of research papers. The life skills teacher has to know about gender issues; multiple partners; masculinity; policy; child abuse; sexual harassment; violence against women; sexuality education (which by itself can be a minefield) and issues around culture and the low status of women. The teacher is also expected to develop skills in learners since information on its own is ineffectual. During our visits to schools, when we do lesson observations, we have heard choirs of learners singing “just say no to sex” or “say no to child abuse”.
This is all good, but there is still a gap between the theory of just saying “no” and giving children the autonomy to really say “no!” and be heard.
The Unit’s training is designed to give teachers the information they need to enrich their teaching of life skills.
Work in schools includes assisting with a Wellness Policy Development.
The Unit makes every effort to keep current with emerging HIV and AIDS prevention strategies through engaging with authentic research by recognized academics working in this field and attending conferences when possible.
In developing a project for the future focus of the Unit, facilitators worked with young people to find out about their concerns and interesting findings emerged:
- Corporal punishment is still used in some schools which can lead to a cycle of violence and an increased chance low of self-esteem and depression.
- Adolescents have a limited understanding of the human reproductive system and the dynamics of sexual relationships in spite of this being part of the curriculum in life sciences.;
- Adolescents may develop the information and skills to advocate for their safety and welfare but sometimes they encounter an unfriendly and disbelieving community environment;
In addition teachers have knowledge gaps about the subject they teach and while they have Life Orientation resource books they do not have clearly designed lesson plans on sexuality education, nor do they have teaching aids.
Assessing the Project through Participatory Evaluation
The current HIV/AIDS and Gender Education Project ended in September 2011. This five-year project was concluded with a participatory evaluation.
The project was evaluated by Vuk’uyithathe Research and Development, in order to gain insight into the impact of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Gender Education Project on young people, and to generate recommendations to strengthen future programmes. There was broad agreement that the information provided in LO and peer education classes is less important than teaching learners the skills
to assess information for themselves, and to use that information in making healthy, life-affirming decisions. It also emerged that those skills are best taught, and more importantly practiced, through a facilitative, rather than a didactic, teaching approach. Achieving this shift in teaching approach was fundamental to the success of the LO initiative, and by all accounts the CIE programme has been particularly successful in this regard.
The assessment shows that properly trained, mentored and supported teachers can play an important role in helping young people understand and address some of the challenges they face. However, more work needs to be done to generate and sustain the buy-in and commitment of other key stakeholders in the school community – educators, the school management, parents and local service providers – in order to build and strengthen viable networks of care for learners.
- UNESCO's response to HIV/AIDS: UNESCO supports responses to HIV and AIDS that are inclusive and sensitive to the needs and issues of all of the population, but with particular attention to key populations especially vulnerable to HIV and young people in school settings.
- Resource Centre for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (ReCAPP): The following learning activity is for parents. It is designed to help them understand the physical and emotional changes that occur in adolescents during puberty and to be comfortable answering questions about puberty.
- AVERT: AVERT is an international HIV/AIDS charity, based in the UK, working to avert HIV/AIDS worldwide, through education, treatment and care.
- UNAIDS: UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, is an innovative partnership that leads and inspires the world in achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
- South African Police Services - Parent's tips (child abuse): Child Physical Abuse is the Intentional Infliction of an Injury on a Child. These are Indicators that a Child is Being Physically Abused
- Childabuse.com: Comprehensive resource bringing awareness & education in preventing child abuse and related issues. Childabuse.com was created to support, inform and encourage those dealing with any aspect of child abuse, in a positive non-threatening environment.
- Centre for AIDS Development, Research and Evaluation (CADRE): The Centre for AIDS Development, Research and Evaluation (CADRE) is a South African non-profit organisation working in the area of HIV/AIDS research, programme development and communication.