Ei-iE

Unions commit to HIV activism to ensure quality education in West Africa

published 24 March 2011 updated 24 March 2011

Challenges to secure quality education in the West African countries of Senegal and Mali include overcrowded classes, over-stretched teachers and under-resourced schools. The impact of HIV and AIDS is another factor with the potential to complicate access and provision of education.

Challenges to secure quality education in the West African countries of Senegal and Mali include overcrowded classes, over-stretched teachers and under-resourced schools. The impact of HIV and AIDS is another factor with the potential to complicate access and provision of education.

Unions working in the region under EI’s EFAIDS programme are committed to addressing the HIV and AIDS pandemic as part of their goal of assuring quality Education for All.

Maouloud Ben Kattra, national coordinator of Mali EFAIDS Programme, run by the SNEC union, believes the EFAIDS programme has been a “voice for the voiceless and has made real progress in advocating on behalf of people living with HIV.” He noted that “due to the EFAIDS work there was an increasing openness towards the epidemic in Mali’s education sector and growing awareness that those who are not infected are still affected.”

Speaking during a participatory workshop in Bamako, Mali, to evaluate the work of the EFAIDS programme, Ben Kattra stated that “the union is committed to actively seeking to improve national education by defining and defending a vision of quality education and not simply reacting to individual government initiatives.”

At the same workshop, Ami Sidibé Coulibaly, representative of Mali’s Network of Persons Living with HIV (AFAS-AMAS), a partner of Mali’s EFAIDS programme, stressed that supporting those living with HIV and breaking down discrimination was a collective responsibility that must include those living with HIV. Coulibaly, who has been living openly with HIV since she discovered her status in 1998, was applauded by fellow participants for her courage and commitment.

Moral Support in Senegal

Developing advocacy for teachers living with HIV is a cornerstone of Senegal’s EFAIDS programme implemented by six teacher unions under the collective of COSSEL. Partnering UNESCO-BREDA, the Senegalese unions have nurtured the CARVEE network which coordinates practical and moral support to those living with HIV across the education sector.

While reported levels of HIV prevalence in Senegal and Mali are relatively low to the profile of the epidemic across Sub-Saharan Africa, vigilance is crucial to preventing dramatic increases in HIV rates which could severely affect socio-economic developments, not least in education.

Evaluating success

Participants in the evaluation of Senegal’s EFAIDS programme debated milestones crucial to minimising the burden of HIV on an already under-resourced education system. Union advocacy to achieve universal access to treatment and rolling-out voluntary testing in school spaces was highlighted. Equally, training more than 6,000 teachers and empowering them with skills to teach HIV prevention and sexual health education in schools across the country was seen as a major achievement in mitigating the impact of HIV on the education sector.

By Julie Kavanagh

EI member organisations will mark World AIDS Day on 1 December. The AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) pandemic is continuing to ravage communities around the world. For more information about EI’s EFAIDS programme please contact: [email protected]

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 36, December 2010.