In 2002, Botswana Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (BONEPWA) entered into a partnership with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education to engage people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) as role models and ambassadors of hope in Botswana’s fight against the escalating HIV/AIDS epidemic. This initiative known as Ringing the bell (A re tsogeng) project empowered the PLWHAs to bring “behaviour change messages to schools and in the process making the schools become youth-friendly information centres on adolescent reproductive health, sexuality, and human rights.” It was anticipated that the PLWHAs as the credible voice would help fight stigma and discrimination.
The purpose of the evaluation was to identify lessons that can be used to inform the scaling of the BONEPWA/MOE/UNICEF project to national level. The evaluation is therefore intended to identify strengths and challenges of the project for continuous improvement and quality enhancement during the up-scaling of the project with particular focus on replicability; identifying its relevance, challenges and opportunities in reducing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS by engaging PLWHAs as effective role models for how to live healthy, productive lives with HIV and reinforce information about the need to adopt and maintain safe behaviours.
The evaluation was expected to assess the following aspects of the project:
The evaluation used both qualitative and quantitative methods. The quantitative methods were to provide data to quantify the outputs and the outcomes of the project. The qualitative methods on the other hand were to get in depth reflections on the issues in the project and facilitate the assessment of impact factors that are not easily captured in quantitative data. Fourteen primary schools were visited.
The following specific methods were used:
A stakeholders’ forum will be organized to receive the evaluation report. Field officers, teachers, parents, community leaders, DAMSCs, PLWHAs, BONEPWA, Ministry of Education officials, UNICEF and other partners will participate in this forum and will discuss the future of the project. The forum will review the recommendations of the evaluation and the experiences of the partners to chart the way forward.
Findings and Conclusions:
Strengths of the Project:
Issues and Challenges:
Partnership and Collaboration
The response to HIV/AIDS requires a holistic and multi-sectoral approach that demands synergies and linkages at implementation level. This project was a partnership between UNICEF, Ministry of Education and BONEPWA with Ministry of Education joining the partnership later. The need to broaden the partnerships was recognized. There were, however, no linkages with other parties like DAMSC, which operates at community level and has formed HIV/AIDS committees at the District and village levels. There were overtures in area like Kasane for PLWHAs’ support groups to join those committees. While there were those support groups both at the district and village levels, these networks do not seem to have been coordinated and school based activities linked to them. The nature of the collaboration should be defined and the coordination structures be strengthened.
Project Management and Coordination
The Ministry of Education school staff undertook the day-to-day supervision. BONEPWA Programme Officer was not able to visit schools on a regular basis because of financial and transport constraints. They did not have a direct link with the supervisors at the school level. BONEPWA was responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the project. There is need to establish closer links between the Regional and Principal Education Officers, the supervising teachers and the BONEPWA Programme Officer. Adequate transport should be provided to enable the officer to visit schools. In addition, meetings should be organized so that the participating PLWHAs can meet on a regular basis to exchange experiences as well as give and receive feedback.
Monitoring is a critical management tool. NGOs often cite lack of monitoring of their programmes as a key challenge. Evaluators noted that BONEPWA needs to sharpen the monitoring aspects in the programme. Though the general objectives were specified and the field officers had a Facilitators’ Manual, there were many important guidelines that were missing. It is therefore important that when the project is redesigned, a clear framework should be developed containing specific objectives of the different activities. The framework should spell out the topics for various targets and age groups, strategies and methods to be used, roles of different players, integration of activities into existing programmes, linkages with other related initiatives, resources available as well as monitoring and evaluation systems. In addition, precise indicators of efficiency and effectiveness should be established. The teachers, parents and participating PLWHAs should be involved in the development of the indicators and the monitoring framework. A clear reporting system should be established. BONEPWA and Ministry of Education officials should give feedback to the schools after the schools have submitted the reports.
Integration of the Project into the Curriculum
The project did not have clear guidelines on how it would be integrated into the curriculum and the school timetable. Hence there was mention of integration but no evidence was available.
Content and Methodology
Field officers did not have adequate skills and information and no practice was provided on how to facilitate children’s learning using child-friendly and child-centred methods. In addition, the field officers had to cope with the constraints of teaching large numbers within a limited period of time with, most times, insufficient and appropriate materials for the pupils. There were general complaints from parents, teachers and key informants that some topics covered in lower primary were not appropriate for the age group. The Facilitators’ Manual that the field officers used handled the topics in a general way. It did not specify topics appropriate for different ages and developmental levels. It does not appear that the preparation of this manual made reference to the current guidance and counseling, and science curricula.
In general, the project is very relevant given the extent of HIV/AIDS infection rates in Botswana. Its focus on pupils is a strategic move as childhood is the best time to influence behaviour formation and change. Parents and key informants expressed concern about the appropriate age to discuss sexuality and HIV/AIDS with children. In particular, they were concerned about the imagery used in the materials used for pupils as well as in the media. Finally, the project should take cognizance of people’s cultures
Parent and Community Involvement
There was concern from the parents that they had not been well informed about the project and consequently not many were involved in the project. They felt that it was not enough to expect all the information about the project to be relayed by the pupils.
Impact, Behavior Formation and Changes
Though pupils and teachers reported improvement in knowledge and certain changes in behaviour and life skills, pupils had some glaring misconceptions or were uncertain of the facts. A considerable number of the lower primary pupils have many gaps in knowledge on vital issues such as how HIV is transmitted, how HIV is not transmitted and also in life skills.
It appears that the partners had not thought through and mobilized adequate human and financial resources to maintain the pilot project. The duration of the project was too short to allow for adequate lessons to inform an expanded and sustainable programme. In particular, BONEPWA should consider and identify other ways of mobilizing resources from diversified sources.
Partnership and Collaboration:
Monitoring, Supervision and Support:
The following are needed to improve monitoring:
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HIV/AIDS – Young People
Botswana Network of People Living with AIDS (BONEPWA), Ministry of Education