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First meeting / Document 7
UNESCO Strategy on HIV/AIDS and Education
(Draft for discussion)
Françoise Caillods

In less than two decades HIV/AIDS has been transformed from a medical curiosity to an international emergency. It can no longer be conceived of as just a health problem - it is already a development disaster and is becoming a security crisis with social impacts as devastating as any war. The spread is not decreasing, on the contrary, it is still accelerating. Unlike other epidemics, it primarily affects young adults, and although it strikes the poor it also heavily affects the skilled, the trained and the educated - i.e. the groups most vital for development.

The AIDS epidemic not only hampers development; it reverses it by destroying productive capacity. The epidemic will have an exceptional impact on the economy in two ways. Firstly, by loss of productivity from loss of the most productive. Secondly by the burdens of caring for the sick and tending for orphans. Many youth will grow up desocialized and disconnected. AIDS is wiping out decades of investment in education and in human development.

AIDS attacks not only human bodies, but the body politic as well. It has an unprecedented institutional impact, not only on the institutions most needed for development but also on those most needed to prevent the spread of the epidemic itself. By the high rate of disease and death among teachers and other trained professionals it will erode access and interfere with the capacity of key institutions to function. Children will lose teachers at school and parents who can support them from home. Classes will be dropped and schools will close. Not only will children and the young get a poorer education as the industrialized world moves into the knowledge society - there will be fewer opportunities for them to learn how to avoid what is afflicting their elders.

The appalling paradox is that in spite of the knowledge of the causes of the disease and how to avoid it, it took a long time before public authorities reacted in a forceful way. It has taken also a very long time before the knowledge has spread, particularly in developing countries. But in all countries the provision of information is necessary on a permanent basis. In large parts of the world the basic knowledge about infectious diseases is absent. In this vacuum, superstition can grow, for example about how one can protect oneself or be cured.

Since treatment does not bring complete cure and the treatment that can bring improvement is still too costly for large parts of the world's population, prevention through education followed by action is the best medicine - indeed the only thing that works. This is the point of departure for UNESCO's strategy on HIV/AIDS.

Two key questions deserve thorough investigations:

  • How does the epidemic affect the institutions of society in general and educational institutions in particular?

  • How can the institutions of society in general, and formal and non-formal educational institutions in particular, counteract the spread of the epidemic.
  • The first, defensive, question needs to be answered in order to plan for how to cope with the ravages of the epidemic on the very institutions that should protect against it. How to plan and organize? With which partners? What countermeasures can be taken? At which level? What has been tried and what works? To answer such questions studies and research are needed - but at the same time strategies have to be drawn up before full knowledge is attained.

    The second, offensive, question is what information should be given by whom, in what way, to whom, and at what level (international, national, local) to obtain the desired impact. What teaching material or curricula should be prepared for learners in different institutions and programmes, for teachers, for managers? What should be directed towards attitudinal change?

    With respect to both questions clearly it is essential to help ministries of education to tackle the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS crisis. It is also essential to mobilize all actors working at the national, regional and local level and to build partnerships. In developing this strategy, knowledge about local conditions as well as sensitivity to culture is imperative.

    These priorities were identified through the end of decade review and, most importantly, through feedback from our regional and agency partners who are working in a variety of contexts across countries. In some cases many of the CG regional and agency members are already programming, raising awareness and/or conducting research in one or more of the above areas (i.e., early literacy, CRC, training & capacity building). For areas such as HIV/AIDs or the development of appropriate and relevant indicators for ECD, the CG plans to review current practice and understanding and/or carry out new piloting and action research on particular topics with the leadership and involvement of some of our donor and regional partners.


    In general, the work already done and proposed on HIV/AIDS and Education undertaken in UNESCO can be divided into six types. They are:

    1. Information Sharing

    2. Prevention : through Resource Package and Training Materials Development

    3. Coping: implementing new interventions

    4. Coping: capacity Building and Networking

    5. Learning: Research

    6. Advocacy

    So far most activities have dealt with (1), (2), (4) and (5). These will continue capitalizing on results already achieved and new ones will be conducted in the other areas.

    Areas of focus within each of these types of work include:

  • basic education

  • secondary education

  • non-formal, youth initiatives and adult education

  • technical/vocation education

  • universities and other higher education institutions including teacher training facilities, and management institutes
  • Special attention will be paid to gender issues.

    Key modes of operation include:

  • working with Ministries on a cross sectoral basis

  • working with communities on local initiatives

  • partnering with NGOs and strengthening their capacities

  • fostering public and private partnerships for a range of co-ordinated activities

  • paying particular attention to the protection of young girls and empowerment of women.

    1. Information Sharing

    Information has to be collected systematically and put at the disposal of governments, NGOS, and international agencies working in this field. This function has to be carried out at the sub regional, regional and international level. At the international level IIEP and IBE will cooperate with the different sub- regional and regional offices to organize clearinghouses on HIVAIDS and education.

    a) Clearing-house (including a data base) on the impact of HIV/AIDS on education and ways and means of coping

    UNESCO (IIEP) in co-operation with various regional offices and regional networks will systematically collect reports, studies and materials linking education and HIV/AIDS. Emphasis will be placed on the following areas:

  • The impact of HIV/AIDS on education in light of less demand on current formal system, decreased supply of schooling services, reduced quality of education and low achievements; lower family resources and increased pupil absenteeism and drop out; high personnel absenteeism and turnover (teachers and administrators);

  • Best practices and measures introduced to help curb as well as cope with the effects of the pandemic on the system (ministry actions; community and family initiatives; teacher development; data collection, monitoring and use in the policy-planning process, non- formal initiatives, school health)

  • Management of integrated programmes combining education, health and communication (community initiatives and information campaign using mass media, non-formal cultural activities, possible public-private partnerships…)
  • Certain collating functions will also be carried out to summarize lessons learned, to identify particularly successful experiences, and to identify knowledge needs.

    b) Other data base creation related to curriculum:

    Exemplary curricula approaches, resource packages, teaching materials, videos, posters on HIV/AIDS, sexual health education, community awareness programmes(UNESCO-IBE with regional offices)

    It is proposed that an updated, ongoing cataloguing and review of all major efforts to date be established in the development of curricular strategies for HIV/AIDS education. A comprehensive catalogue of materials developed by both national and international institutions will be developed/updated and a state-of-the-art review prepared, indicating the most promising materials/approaches. This review might be carried out by a committee of experts from a suitable representation of countries. Such an effort could be part of the ongoing work of UNAIDS to systematically identify and catalogue best practices in HIV/AIDS sexual health education within both formal and non-formal education settings.

    2. Preventing: Resource Package and Training Materials Development

    a. Continued development of flexible and adaptable resource packages for curriculum planners, providing them with tools to incorporate HIV/AIDS awareness measures into their plans, and dissemination of the existing prototype resource package (to be adapted and translated into several languages) Production of gender-sensitive HIV/AIDS teaching material in formal and non-formal education e.g. the planned activity for a sub-regional workshop for the production of gender-sensitive radio and booklets on HIV/AIDS with participants from Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Production of teaching materials to be used in literacy and adult education programmes.

    b. Work with teacher training programmes to update curricula and develop teacher manuals, and training of trainers' manuals to include relevant subjects, including life-skills and HIV/AIDS awareness. Programmes should be designed to facilitate teachers' learning for their own personal well-being and ethical stance, as well as to develop skills in conveying and supporting messages with students.

    3. Coping: Planning and Implementing New Interventions

  • Analyze best practices and success stories, try out and support new interventions at local, regional and national level;

  • Sketch out the various alternatives to cope with the pandemic in terms of organization of education provision in and non-formal programmes, education of those affected by the pandemics ( e.g. the orphans), teacher supply and training and provision of a secure and caring environment for those infected and affected;

  • Formulate UN policy guidelines concerning teachers and HIV/AIDS. These guidelines should enable governments to formulate teacher policies on an informed basis to address questions such as: What is the status of teachers with HIV/AIDS? What are their rights and responsibilities? How should policies of teacher recruitment, training, employment and deployment be changed? Should HIV/AIDS infected teachers be kept on staff? Under what conditions should they be asked to stop teaching? What support should be given to them?

  • Assist countries in developing a personnel policy to deal with high attrition rates, and declining productivity among staff members. Analysis of best practices to replace the large numbers of teachers who have had to stop teaching because of HIV/AIDS?

  • Work with teacher unions on the definition of a code of conduct for teachers, and on strategies to cope with teacher shortages;

  • Develop teacher training seminars on school health and HIV/AIDS prevention;

  • Maintain or raise the quality of education in contexts of HIV/AIDS prevalence;

  • Work with communities and parent teacher associations to sensitize them on the real risks of infection, and how teachers that are affected should be treated;

  • Include assertiveness-training modules in literacy programmes and non-formal education activities, especially for girls/women.
  • 4. Coping: Capacity Building and Networking

    a. Train and support planners and managers to anticipate and cope better with HIV/AIDS

  • Develop training materials and programme for both face-to-face and distance education modes.

  • Support mobilization task-force teams to help governments with planning and managing HIV/AID.

  • Make HIV/AIDS an integral concern in the training of planners and managers, develop a special module in the IIEP annual training programme on how to cope with HIV/AIDS and education, and train educational planners through various intensive courses and distance mode.

  • Expand existing management training programmes to include national leaders and staff dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic

  • Train women trainers for formal and non-formal education programmes

  • Foster networking and links between researchers and planners to feed research findings into policy-making and projects.

  • Fund positions and research at local universities in areas related to HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
  • b. Assist governments to implement and monitor new organizational and curriculum strategies

  • Assist countries to mobilize task-force teams to help governments with planning and implementing new organizational strategies.

  • Identify opportunities to modify existing projects and develop new projects to include strong components to build the capacity of people in all sectors to manage and implement HIV/AIDS prevention and care programmes.

  • Assist in developing/co-ordinating/strengthening regional networks to assist in the implementation of HIV prevention, care and support interventions (as proposed in the draft report of the pre-Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations to the UNAIDS Programme Co-ordinating Board, March 2000). Existing networks would be mobilized to address HIV/AIDS as a priority area e.g. IBE/MED Network which has already been launched and networks under development for Asia, Latin America, Arab States and Africa.

  • Link with NGOs on inclusion of HIV/AIDS and sexual/general personal health education material into study plans of literacy and post-literacy programmes, particularly for non-formal, youth and adult education activities; studies on marginalized groups to learn how programmes might be changed to take into account better their needs; and working with trainers on HIV/AIDS and ethical issues
  • c. Assist communities implement local initiatives

  • Work with community leaders to sensitize them to the HIV/AIDS issue, and to garner support for the inclusion of HIV/AIDS material in formal and non-formal education.

  • Training of trainers from communities to heighten awareness and to train others in HIV/AIDS prevention and management strategies.

  • Train women trainers for formal and non-formal education programmes, including the use of traditional and local media as vehicles for increasing young women's knowledge and transforming skills, attitudes and behaviours to strengthen the possibilities of fighting HIV/AIDS.
  • 5. Research

    There are several areas of needed research, which can be grouped under two categories:

    a. monitoring and evaluating the current impact of HIV/AIDS on education (formal and non-formal),

    b. monitoring and evaluating the introduction and impact of new strategies and interventions.

    While there is a continuing need to provide accurate information which can be gleaned from demographic and health studies, UNESCO's strategy is best to focus on the specific relationship of HIV/AIDS and its impact on education (formal and non-formal) and the surrounding community/family structure as well as education's impact on HIV/AIDS . Information for current and future education systems (formal and non-formal) regarding demand, supply of schooling services, quality of education, and equality of opportunities is needed, as well as the result of interventions and the way that people are coping with the impact. Greatest emphasis needs to be placed on planning for future alternative education systems, and on implementing, monitoring and evaluating new interventions.

    a. Monitoring and evaluating current impact of HIV/AIDS on education (formal and non-formal)

  • Studies to determine whether teachers are more or less exposed to infection than other groups - statistics and causes. Specifically, do the conditions of teaching, or the conditions of national or international deployment of teachers contribute in any way to the spread of HIV/AIDS. If so, then what personnel policies need to be put in place to deal with this?

  • Studies to gauge HIV/AIDS prevalence among pupils and staff in different contexts, and how these individuals and their communities react to this knowledge and deal with the impact.

  • Studies to analyze the impact on the quality of education, with particular emphasis on resource requirements.
  • b. Monitoring and evaluating the impact of new strategies and interventions

    Studies to determine the effect of interventions such as those above and other educational, communication and health programmes on the behaviour of students, teachers and other staff. For example:

  • Do single sex schools make a difference to both HIV/AIDS prevalence, safety, learning and confidence/empowerment of girls?

  • How should the processes, programmes and materials be modified for different cultural sensitivities? What types of processes, programmes and materials work best in different communities and why?

  • What additional forms of support are needed to strengthen the impact of interventions?

  • Do certain organizational changes allow orphans and children in difficult situation to attend school in reasonable learning conditions?
  • Analysis of best practices, measures and programmes aimed at facilitating access of pupils in difficult situations e.g. orphans and children head of households.

    Collaborate with other key agencies (IGOS and NGOS) in in-depth studies into the use of selected curricular strategies/approaches/ materials to date, for the purpose of evaluating their impact on student and teacher behaviour and attitudes. Such evaluations will be carried out at selected country levels, with the results relating to the use of the same materials in different countries subsequently compared.

    In country mapping and monitoring of impact of interventions in different rural and cultural areas.

    6. Advocacy: How to Break the Silence

  • Sponsor and conduct conferences, workshops and seminars to obtain broader commitment for intensified action e.g. include HIV/AIDS activity at the 46th session of the International Conference on Education (ICE) September 2001; organize several workshops at international and regional level, such as the one on the impact of HIV/AIDS on Education in September, 2000 or the Senior Experts Conference on HIV/AIDS and Education in West Africa planned for 2001.

  • Collaborate with regional/sub-regional agencies such as the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) in the organization of a series of round table meetings at sub-regional levels bringing together Ministers of Education, Health, Finance and other key ministries to formulate co-ordinated national and sub-regional responses to the impact of HIV/AIDS on the education sector;

  • Make provision where possible for key agencies, NGOs, Senior staff of ministries of education and others working in this domain to be active in these sessions.

  • Co-operate with and support regional and sub-regional initiatives such as the SADC action programme on HIV/AIDS in education and training in the Southern African Development Community;

  • Develop country, regional and sector-specific presentations on the impact of HIV/AIDS on development, along with range of pragmatic solutions, including use of mass media.

  • Identify international and country firms/businesses to mobilize the private sector to join efforts to intensify action.

  • Assist leaders to mobilize civil society and the private sector to intensify action against HIV/AIDS in their country

  • Awareness raising among teachers on the real risks related to HIV/AIDS, and on ethical conduct in keeping with the new situation.

  • Advocacy in the media on attitudinal and behavioural issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention.

  • Devote several issues of UNESCO journals and periodicals such as Source and the comparative education journal Prospects to the theme of HIV/AIDS/sexual health education.
  • IIEP / 2/11/00