Education sector response to HIV/AIDS

In moving towards a holistic, sector-wide view of the impacts and challenges of HIV, and the use of all components, modalities and capacities of the education system to address and mitigate those impacts, a comprehensive education sector response at the country level has been promoted.

UNESCO works closely with national education sectors and other partners to ensure that quality HIV education is available to empower children and young people by building their knowledge and skills and by promoting values and behaviors that enable them to secure their future. UNESCO’s support is undertaken through three strategies, namely the strengthening of (i) policy and management systems, (ii) content, curriculum and learning materials, and (iii) educator training and support.

Strengthening HIV and Sexuality Education in the Pacific

Today young people are exposed to a wide range of information and attitudes in relation to sex and sexuality. Young people learn about life skills and sexuality from their friends, the television, the internet and social media. Often what is presented to them is incorrect and misleading. Research shows that the school setting is an ideal place for accurate information to be imparted and that school-based sexual and reproductive health education programs are valuable and have a positive impact on young people’s health. However, the issues of what should be delivered, how it is delivered and by whom, within Pacific Island schools needs to be resolved.

Under the Pacific Education Development Framework (PEDF) is cross cutting theme 6: HIV and AIDS, which aims to provide a supportive environment for those affected by HIV including teachers and students, including HIV and AIDS prevention into the formal school curricula, and mainstreaming HIV and AIDS into the Education Sector Planning and Implementation. The PEDF identifies the HIV and AIDS Pacific Regional Strategy 2009 – 2013 as the embodiment of a regional approach where nations work together to develop more effective responses to HIV and AIDS.

In May 2011, representatives from relevant NGOs and Education Ministries from 13 Pacific Island Countries came together in Nadi to discuss the key issues surrounding HIV and sexuality education. Discussions showed that some countries were delivering Family Life Education (FLE) as a standalone subject (including Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) while others are integrating elements of FLE into existing subjects. A common observation in many countries was that despite the existence of modules such as FLE or Health and Physical Education, schools had not been able to teach these effectively and in their entirety.

 A number of outcomes resulted  from this consultation including the need to carry out an attitudinal survey to gauge the attitudes of school principals, teachers, parents/guardians and students, about HIV and sex education, whether it should be taught in schools, and if so, how?

 A pilot research was carried out in Niue, Nauru, Palau, and Samoa in May and June 2012 covering a number of topics including puberty, male and female reproductive systems, pregnancy and childbirth, abstinence, contraception and family planning, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, relationships, community and sexual decision making. 261 teachers and 350 parents, teachers and students participated in this survey. The results will be released to the participating countries before the end of 2012.

UNESCO is currently collaborating with UNFPA, UNICEF and UNAIDS to expand the programme to other pacific islands, and to provide support as they move forward to implement the recommendations from the survey.

For more information contact: Andrew Peteru, National Programme Officer in HIV and AIDS Education.

 

For these youngsters, making important decisions start every morning when they board their canoe and cross the bay towards their school at Faleseela village in Upolu, Samoa (Photo: Perese Upulasi, February 2011).

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