THE challenges faced by the Namibian education system as a result of HIV-AIDS were highlighted at the commemoration of World AIDS Day by the Ministry of Education on Friday.
Alfred Ilukena, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, said just as education can contribute to weakening the grip of HIV-AIDS, so also the epidemic can weaken an education system’s ability to function.
Current statistics indicate that over 7 000 people are still being infected globally on a daily basis.
“HIV-AIDS affects the demand for education, which means that it affects the number of learners who want to be educated. HIV-AIDS affects the ability to supply education of good quality. Teachers and other educators are dying in increasing numbers and at comparatively young ages and it may take some time before they can be replaced,” Ilukena said.
He also pointed out that HIV-AIDS also affects the cost of education and the availability of financial resources, as well as the management of education.
“Every education system has its own inadequacies and management problems. HIV-AIDS makes it worse by adding new problems. In education, as elsewhere in a world with HIV-AIDS , it can no longer be business as usual. It can no longer be education as usual. HIV-AIDS challenges us to work out the kind of education that will prepare children and youth to live responsibly, productively and creatively,” he said.
Namibia’s national response to HIV-AIDS clearly acknowledges the great role the education sector plays in contributing to the multi-sectoral response.
“Given the current national prevalence rate of 18,8%, concerted measures need to be put in place to invest in HIV prevention, care, support and impact mitigation programmes within the workplace and learning institutions,” Ilukena said.
Efforts to address HIV-AIDS and to mitigate its impact on the education sector, policies and strategies have been put in place.
The first policy to be developed was the National HIV-AIDS Policy for the Education Sector (2003). The HIV-AIDS Workplace Policy for the education sector was developed in 2007 with the Strategic Plan for the Workplace Wellness Programme was developed in 2006.
“The challenges that we are facing are the implementation of the existing policies and the mainstreaming of HIV-AIDS in all our daily routine,” Ilukena said.
The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day, which is annually commemorated on December 1, was ‘Getting to Zero’, with the slogan ‘Treatment prevention for zero new infections’.
Awareness levels are higher than ever before and anti-retroviral treatment is more accessible, Ilukena said.