South African Democratic Alliance Calls for ‘Emergency Plan’ to Combat HIV/AIDS Effect on Education
The Democratic Alliance called on South African Education Minister Kader Asmal on Wednesday to develop an "emergency plan" to deal with the effects of HIV/AIDS on the nation's educational system, the South African Press Association reports. The DA issued the call in response to a government-sponsored study that found 20% of teachers in KwaZulu-Natal, 16% of teachers in other provinces and 7%-8% of principals and department heads nationwide are HIV-positive. The education department study was conducted by Abt Associates Incorporated, an international consulting company, and was "leaked" to the Johannesburg-based Star newspaper. According to the Star, the report also said that HIV/AIDS would become the leading cause of death among educators this year. DA spokesperson Andre Gaum said that the plan should "support and monitor" teachers with HIV, place retired teachers on "standby" to return to teaching, "actively recruit" new teachers and "increase the capacity" of teacher training centers (SAPA, 1/10). Experts have previously warned that HIV/AIDS would "worsen the projected shortage of teachers, affect their ability to teach, increase infection rates among pupils, change enrollment patterns and generally disrupt schooling because of erratic attendance rates," as teachers and students become ill or take time to care for family members. UNICEF warned that HIV/AIDS "most profoundly" affects education, as one in four undergraduates, one in eight post-graduates and one in five technical school students is HIV-positive. These findings raise fears of economic loss because skills development will lag and student loans will not be repaid as people fall ill (Harvey, WOZA Internet/allAfrica, 1/9). The DA called the high prevalence of HIV among college students "equally disturbing," but made no suggestions regarding HIV-positive students. Gaum added that school sex education programs had "clear[ly]" failed and students were "acting recklessly" in their sexual behavior (SAPA, 1/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.