- The Impact of the HIV/ AIDS Epidemic on the Education Sector in sub-Saharan Africa: a synthesis of the findings and recommendations of three country studies
'HIV/AIDS appears to be on the ascendancy'(emphasis added) writes Michael Kelly, the well-known Zambia-based scholar and spokesperson on AIDS and schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa, 'and to have virtually overcome education, swamping it with a wide range of problems' (Kelly 2000:24). In using the quote at the beginning of this report, the authors draw attention to a key objective of their study, that being to find out what the situation really is in this region of Africa. Drawing on case studies of three countries Botswana, Malawi and Uganda (BMU), they are interested in mapping out both the extent of the impact of AIDS on the education sector, and some of the ways that the education sector might also be addressing the issues.
Methodologically, the study is an ambitious one, and it is worth noting at the outset that one of the conclusions of the study is that there is a need for 'detailed, robust and on-going empirical research in each affected country' (109). The study is important because it does attempt to do exactly this kind of work by interviewing and surveying teachers and students in the three countries. The report is divided into nine short chapters, and an [End Page 160] Executive Summary, with each section very clearly laid out in terms of the focus. Chapter One provides a background and outlines the overall design, team members and funding sources (including the Rockefeller Foundation in Malawi and Uganda, and the UK Department for International Development in Botswana). Chapter Two deals with Methodology. I will return to this later in the review, but it is important to note that just for the valuable observations noted in this section alone, the study is worthwhile reading. Trying to make cross-country comparisons can be difficult, and the paucity of good record-keeping and data collection more generally can be very challenging. Chapter Three focuses on the overall policy frameworks for each of the three countries, and reports on the questionnaire and focus group data on four main sources of evidence for gauging the effectiveness of school-based prevention programs: overall trends in HIV prevalence, changes in key indicators of sexual behaviour, changes in information levels about the causes and consequences of the epidemic, and qualitative assessments by students and teaching staff about HIV/AIDS education. Chapters Four and Five address directly the impact of AIDS on children and especially orphans. Chapters Six and Seven focus on teachers (impacts to date and future impact). Chapter Eight is of particular interest to those working in the area of Human Resources in that it looks at AIDS in the workplace. Chapter Nine looks at management issues and the need for further research.
The study serves as an excellent model for others to follow, both in relation to studying other AIDS affected countries besides Botswana, Malawi and Uganda, but also for 'testing out' other hypothesis on rural/ urban differences or considering other age and cultural variables. Perhaps what is most interesting about the study is that the authors are very transparent about the difficulty of doing this kind of work, and the challenges to getting 'good data'. A case in point is their treatment of teachers' sexual misconduct. Following from the work of Fiona Leach (2001) and others on teachers as perpetrators, they report on the difficulty of even having respondents understand the question. They note, for example, that while the teachers and administrators in Uganda seem to understand the term, Botswana respondents had to have it explained. Malawi administrators, they report, seem to confuse sexual harassment and 'normal' sexual relations. As one administrator apparently put it:
No sexual harassment has been reported. However, it has been remoured that some teachers are having affairs with...