2000 NMB: The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Education in Namibia
Author: Kinghorn, A. et al.; Abt Associates
The HIV/AIDS epidemic presents a major new challenge to Namibia and key partners of the education system. The relatively early stage of Namibia's AIDS epidemic creates an important potential for pro-active responses so that the country is well prepared to manage the main burden of the epidemic. Nevertheless, AIDS is already increasing demands on social services such as health and welfare, particularly in regions with more advanced epidemics.
Purpose / Objective
The HIV/AIDS impact study was undertaken to provide more information to MBESC and MHETEC about ways in which HIV and AIDS undermine their mandates to provide high quality, relevant education. Specific issues to be examined include effects on:
- Demand for education and any changes in the scale or type of needs to be met by the sector
- Ability to supply education, through impacts on employees and trainees
- Costs of education
- The process and quality of education
- The content and role of education
- Planning and management in the education sector
The study employed the following methodology:
- Qualitative data collection through group discussions and key informant interviews with managers, educators and learners in seven education regions, as well as with other stakeholders in the Ministries, and other sectors.
- A school survey of a nationally representative sample of 103 primary, 51 combined and 24 secondary schools. This collected data from school heads, guidance teachers and 734 Grade 10 learners.
- Secondary data collection, including EMIS data, policies, legislation, and other documentation.
- Demographic projections to assess current and future levels of HIV/AIDS impacts. These were produced with the Metropolitan Life/Doyle model, calibrated to the profile of the Namibian epidemic.
Key Findings and Conclusions
At current infection rates, over one quarter of the nation's investment in education could be lost through premature AIDS illness and deaths among today's learners and students. HIV/AIDS is also exacerbating negative socio-economic and other influences on learners, and compounding weaknesses in ability to deliver quality and accessible education. Impacts are likely to disproportionately affect communities and individuals that are already disadvantaged, obstructing attempts to improve equity. In any single year, HIV/AIDS alone seems unlikely to destabilize the whole system. However, this hides insidious effects on quality and access, as well as severe impacts on many schools and many thousands of infected and affected employees and learners.
How will HIV/AIDS affect demands and needs faced by the education system?
The total number of children and youth requiring education will continue to grow over the next decade but this growth will be slowed down as a result of the epidemic. The total number of people aged 5-19 is projected to be around 8% lower than it would have been without the epidemic.
New infection among people aged 15-25 is the main factor driving the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Estimated HIV prevalence is close to zero among Namibians in the early teens, and then rises rapidly from the mid-teens to around one-in-five people by the mid-20s. Importantly, the proportion of teenagers who are not infected is likely to be higher than assumed by many young people. A relatively small proportion of learners in education institutions is likely to be ill with HIV/AIDS. This is an important message of hope. Despite important progress in prevention, levels of knowledge and behaviour change are limited.
Children affected by the pandemic constitute a significant proportion of the school age population. By 2010, as many as 130,000 children in total, and around one-in-four children aged 10-14, may have lost at least their mothers to AIDS. There are strong indications that many orphans are at risk of dropping out of school, erratic attendance, poorer concentration and performance, and emotional and behavioural disturbances. Older female and younger male learners may be particularly vulnerable, though no clear influence of HIV/AIDS is apparent so far.
Learners affected by HIV/AIDS face other challenges that create obstacles to education including lack of sufficient food and money for school fees, uniforms and books. They also face psychosocial stresses due to illness or loss of loved ones. Children of poverty and trauma are more likely to be at risk of HIV infection, abuse and exploitation. Orphans' vulnerability cannot, for practical purposes, be separated from that of other children in poverty independent of HIV/AIDS. Responses to support orphans are therefore relevant to many other children and youth, and their ability to access and succeed in education.
How does HIV/AIDS affect ability to deliver education?
A significant proportion of education managers and staff still has inadequate basic knowledge and awareness around HIV/AIDS or are in denial. Namibia's teachers are at a relatively high risk of HIV infection. Projections suggest that around one-in-seven educators is HIV-infected in 2002. Levels reach one-in-four in Katima Mulilo, the region with the most advanced epidemic. Evidence suggests increasing occurrence of illness and deaths among younger staff. Teacher losses averaged 1.5% over the last two years with a higher rate (2%) in the North. The cumulative loss of educators to AIDS between 2002 and 2010 could be 860 if effective antiretroviral drug (ARV) treatment is widely accessible, or up to 3,360 if it is not. This is equivalent to between 5% or 19% of the current workforce.
ARV treatment can substantially lower death rates and cumulative loss of teachers. Under ARVs scenarios, the number of educators on chronic medication will accumulate rapidly. Schools reported absenteeism, due to illness or funeral attendance, as being a major and increasing problem for education quality, particularly in the north. Deaths and illness among managers were not frequently reported. However, impacts of vacant management posts were reported to be particularly disruptive as they have multiplier effects.
HIV/AIDS creates greater complications for the inadequate relief teacher system. Most schools have difficulty funding relief teachers, as their Boards cannot afford to pay for them. Medical aid costs are likely to be the single largest HIV/AIDS related cost. However, ARVs are a potentially affordable strategy for the education system.
HIV/AIDS has to be recognised as "core business" for the whole education sector for the foreseeable future. All components of education are affected and have roles to play in protecting the system from HIV/AIDS impacts. "Mainstreaming" of HIV/AIDS within all components of the education sector and at all levels is imperative to address HIV/AIDS effectively. All Directorates and institutions must actively integrate HIV/AIDS into their strategies and actions. Responsibility cannot be abdicated to the proposed HIV/AIDS Unit, other HIV/AIDS programmes or other sectors.
Importantly, HIV/AIDS presents opportunities, not just a threat. Many aspects of HIV/AIDS responses are consistent with existing priorities, programmes and initiatives to strengthen education independent of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS reinforces the urgency to address them and creates opportunities to mobilise support to remove obstacles to efficient implementation:
- Reinforce leadership commitment
- Actively combat stigmatisation, secrecy and denial around HIV/AIDS
- Strengthen HIV/AIDS programme capacity and structures
- Disseminate knowledge across the sector and include positive messages
- Ensure decentralised approaches
- Ensure flexibility to deal with uncertainty
- Develop inter- and intra-sectoral co-ordination and partnerships
- Refine the HIV/AIDS strategic and operational plans
- Reinforce existing programmes and activities that are relevant to managing HIV/AIDS
- Improve information and monitoring of impacts and responses
- Develop strategy on resource allocation and mobilisation
Full report in PDF
PDF files require Acrobat Reader.