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 My song against AIDS
  
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Another face of AIDS: 860,000 children without teachers

An estimated 860,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa lost their teachers to AIDS in 1999. Children in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are most seriously affected by these losses.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, HIV seroprevalence is very high among teachers and school administrators. Zambia, for example, recorded 1,300 teacher deaths in the first 10 months of 1998, more than twice the number of deaths in 1997 and two thirds the number of new teachers trained annually. In the Central African Republic, between 1996 and 1998 almost as many teachers died as retired.

Although HIV/AIDS affects all sectors, its most profound effects are concentrated in education. Now, all over sub-Saharan Africa, hard-won gains in school enrolment – and the returns on investments countries have made to improve education – are being eroded. Schooling is disrupted when teachers are absent from class due to illness, death or the need to care for ill family members, or when a decreasing number of teachers have to take on larger classes. HIV-positive teachers are leaving schools in remote areas that lack health care facilities and requesting postings in locations near hospitals.
Teacherless children
Primary schoolchildren who lost a teacher to AIDS, 1999

South Africa 100,000
Kenya 95,000
Zimbabwe 86,000
Nigeria 85,000
Uganda 81,000
Zambia 56,000
Malawi 52,000
Ethiopia 51,000
Tanzania 49,000
Congo, Dem. Rep. 27,000

Source: UNAIDS, UNICEF.

HIV/AIDS also affects children who drop out of school when their families can no longer afford their school costs because the bread winner is ill and is no longer working, or where AIDS treatments eat up a larger share of the household budget. In some countries, parents are keeping their daughters, in particular, out of school for fear they might become infected.

In a number of countries, public spending is being shifted away from education to cope with other aspects of the AIDS crisis, which means less funding is available to hire and train teachers to replace those who have died. Educational quality also suffers when fewer resources are available for classrooms and materials. Discriminatory attitudes and practices towards AIDS-affected individuals interfere with the learning process, and high rates of teacher turnover and fluctuating numbers of students constrain educational planning.

However, education must be safe-guarded in the face of the AIDS crisis, as schools are key to reducing the impact of the disease. Countries’ efforts to develop school-based programmes to control HIV/AIDS have been dealt a mortal blow, and assistance from the international community is urgently needed.

 
 
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