New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Aids Cutting Down Teachers

Windhoek — Since last year, the Namibian education system has lost an alarming number of teachers to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and indications are that more deaths are expected within the next few years from the illness.

This shocking revelation was made by the Namibia National Teachers Organization (Nantu) yesterday at a meeting to discuss the impact of HIV/AIDS on the education system in the country. A number of selected teachers attended the crucial meeting in the capital.

"We have lost many teachers, education officers and managers to the AIDS pandemic, influencing teaching service delivery negatively. If teachers are sick and are unable to do their jobs properly, the quality of service will decrease. A sick person needs to seek medical attention and this means he or she has to stay away from work for some time," said the Secretary General elect of Nantu, Basilius Haingura.

He also stressed that absenteeism leads to a decrease in productivity.

"The vacancies of posts caused by teachers and education officers who passed away need to be filled with new employees. This means we are losing skilled employees, who cannot be replaced. The quality of education depends on the quality of teachers as human resources and teaching materials. Quality teachers means that they are well trained and healthy," Haingura said.

HIV/AIDS places major challenges in the attainment of the goals of education.

"The rates of the illness among educators leave the Ministry of Education in the regions in a very awkward situation. Education attrition leads to classes without teachers and increased administrative burdens and inefficiencies, leading to high dropout rates, adding to the many problems in the education system," he said.

He also mentioned that a report by the Ministry of Education projects that around 550 teachers and/or educators will be dying annually of AIDS by 2011.

"Despite important progress in prevention, a significant proportion of learners in educational institutions are likely to be ill with HIV/AIDS. By 2010, as many as 130 000 children would have at least lost a mother due to the pandemic," Haingura said.

"Learners affected by HIV/AIDS face other challenges that create obstacles to education, such as stress-related illnesses and the loss of loved ones to AIDS. Such children can be easily abused and exploited," he said.

He also said that education has been identified as one of the principal means of the country's socio-economic development pillars.

"The education sector is the nation's largest single employer, with a total of 20 000 workers of which about 18 000 are teachers. The expenditure in the sector accounts for about 80% of all costs. To make things worse, the fact that primary school enrolment rates have reached over 93%, also contributes towards the many problems," he said.

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