Impacts of HIV/AIDS on education

HIV/AIDS affects the demand for education because there would be: fewer children to educate; fewer children wanting to be educated; fewer children able to afford education; and fewer children able to complete education. HIV/AIDS affects the supply of education due to mortality of trained teachers, reduced productivity of sick teachers, mortality of educational managers and planners, and teacher stress.

A decline in school enrolment is one of the most visible effects of the epidemic. Notable manifestations are the withdrawal of children-especially girls-from school because of inability to meet school costs, the irregular school attendance of children from AIDS-infected homes, the failure to provide for the education of orphans, and the inability of communities to provide as much support for schools as they did in the past. Reduced school enrolments will have an effect on HIV prevention, as a good basic education ranks among the most effective and cost-effective means of preventing HIV. Thus Peter Piot, Director of UNAIDS, stated: “Without education, AIDS will continue its rampant spread. With AIDS out of control, education will be out of reach”.

Shaeffer in 1994 predicted that by 2020, Africa’s school enrolment would be less by 22% and 14% in primary and secondary schools, respectively. Due to HIV/AIDS and orphanhood, school enrolment was reported to have fallen by 20-36% in the Central African Republic and Swaziland, and by 20% in South Africa.

A study in Zimbabwe found that 19% of male teachers and almost 29% of female teachers were infected with HIV, while 17% of Mozambique’s teachers were HIV-positive.

Illness or death of teachers is especially devastating in rural areas where schools depend heavily on one or two teachers. Moreover, skilled teachers were not easily replaced. Swaziland estimated that it would train 13,000 teachers over the next 17 years, just to keep services at their 1997 levels; 7,000 more than it would have to train if there were no AIDS-related deaths.

In 1998, Zambia reported that 40% of teachers were HIV-positive and 1,331 teachers died as a result of AIDS; translating into five teachers dying daily throughout the country. The World Bank reported that Zambia would need US$25 million to replace teachers who would die of HIV/AIDS between 2000 and 2010, while Mozambique would need about twice as much. In Zambia, expenditure on teacher training would need to increase by 26% if Education for All targets were to be met in the face of AIDS.

Elsewhere, the impacts of HIV/AIDS on the supply of and demand for education have been documented: in the Central African Republic, 85 percent of teachers who died between 1996 and 1998 were HIV-positive; at least 12 percent of South Africa’s administrative personnel were estimated to be HIV positive; in Kenya, teacher deaths rose from 450 in 1995 to about 1,500 in 1999; and Cote d’Ivoire is reported to be losing teachers at the rate of five per teaching day (900-1,000 a year).

An estimated 860,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa lost their teachers to AIDS in 1999; in the Democratic Republic of Congo, schools closed because AIDS left them without teachers; increased teacher attrition as other sectors of government and industry seek educated personnel to replace those lost to AIDS; productivity losses due to AIDS-related sicknesses and absenteeism; and the problem of finding replacements for specialist teachers.

There are numerous indicators of how HIV/AIDS affects the quality of education: frequent teacher absenteeism; repeated bouts of teacher sickness; increased reliance on less qualified teachers; sporadic student attendance; and intermittent student participation following an irregular “drop-out/drop-in” pattern.

Other factors that affect educational quality are: low teacher morale; considerable student and teacher trauma; inability on the part of both teachers and students to concentrate on school work because of concern for those who are sick at home; repeated occasions for grief and mourning in the school, in families and in the community; and a widespread sense of insecurity and anxiety among young learners, especially orphans.

Performance of teachers and students can also be affected by: fear by girls and young boys that they may be sexually abused or maltreated; uncertainty and distrust in the relations between learners and teachers (who may be caricatured by the community as those responsible for the introduction of HIV); unhappiness and fear of stigmatization and ostracization on the part of both teachers and students who have been affected by HIV/AIDS; and teacher uneasiness and uncertainty about personal HIV status.

July 2006
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