Saturday, 8 September 2012

HIV/AIDS and education

This story is from Mozambique. Manica province is short about 1200 teachers. Now, 370 of their teachers are no longer able to work full-time because they are suffering from AIDS-related illnesses. The teachers who remain, work longer and harder and burn out more quickly. Education departments desperately try to train more teachers. In the meantime, children grow up and age out of the system without sufficient education.

Sadly, it's an all-too-familiar story in Southern Africa. HIV/AIDS can decimate an education system. It takes years to train teachers and teaching isn't a high-paid, high-demand profession. It's also extremely difficult to make up for lost time in education because the next year of kids is waiting for their turn. The nature of HIV/AIDS is that it tends to take out adult, income-earning populations. That includes teachers. So the last resort for many children already affected by HIV/AIDS in their own homes - the chance to get an education and secure some kind of future - is all too often destroyed when the teachers on whom they rely are also affected or infected. All of this in a context where countries are under huge pressure to increase their school enrolment, attendance and completion rates.

As aid donor money for HIV/AIDS disappears from Southern Africa, one wonders if national governments will take up the cause and recognise that some extremely tough "dreadful algebra of necessity"* decisions are going to have to be made to staff their education sectors and give the next generation of children a chance.

*To quote Terry Pratchett from Snuff

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