2010 Zimbabwe: Summative evaluation on HIV/AIDS Lifeskills Programme
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The HIV and AIDS Life Skills programme aims at strengthening capacities of young people in dealing with vulnerabilities so that they are able to take care of themselves particularly in the aspects of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV & AIDS. It sought to achieve this by training teachers and student peer educators in HIV/AIDS life skills education and gender dimensions of HIV AIDS. According to the project document the education component is expected to teach specific skills so that young people are enabled “…to take control of their own SRH and demand the information and services they need and are entitled to.1” This program is in line with other UNICEF supported initiatives on Life Skills Education, which have been running since 1992 and was part of a wider and comprehensive SHR program whose objectives were derived from international commitments such as the Declaration of commitment of the 2001 UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV& AIDS. It was consistent with and supportive of the achievement of the MDGs regarding maternal health, gender equality and halting the spread of HIV&AIDS. The programme was implemented from June 2006 to December 2009 with UNICEF support and funding from the European Commission through UNFPA in the 18 of UNICEF convergence districts. The direct beneficiaries were teachers and students in primary and secondary schools in the 18 districts and out – of- school youths in 10 of the 18 districts.
The project document provides for a mid-term review after 18 months and a comprehensive evaluation at the end of the program. This evaluation is being conducted to contribute to the end-of- project /summative evaluation in accordance with the provisions of the project document. The overall purpose of the evaluation was to determine, identify and understand the causes and effects and the difference the project made in the lives of the direct and indirect beneficiaries. While it was too early to show the difference (in the three years the project has run) as impacts, the evaluation attempted to identify behavioral outcomes attributable to the set of interventions that comprise this component of the broader programme3. The evaluation highlighted constraints and generated relevant recommendations for scaling up and improvement of implementation in future and hence serves as a basis for further program design. Its main objective was therefore to provide strategic information and data on HIV/AIDS life-skills based education so as to have reliable, accurate and comprehensive data on the achievements and the impact (where possible). Evaluation findings will be used by the life skills education partners and major implementers at national, provincial and district levels. The major outcomes will be shared with the implementers for them to take into account successful strategies and corrective action that may be required. The evaluation also provides information for leveraging funds and reporting to donors. It is meant to inform the next GoZ-UNICEF Review as it shall reflect the status of the program in terms of its relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, sustainability, coverage and impact and propose recommendations aimed at guiding implementation of life skills education in the next country program of cooperation (2012-2016).
The evaluation was conducted by a team of three, assisted in data collection in the field, by two teams of four research assistants (see Annex 2). The research teams were well balanced in terms of gender noting that they would need to interview children on sensitive issues. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches were used in order to meet the requirements of the TORS. A desk review of key documents was undertaken. This was used to produce a preliminary report to enable UNICEF meet its reporting obligations. That desk review also fed into the development of tools. A wide range of tools was developed in consultation with UNICEF. These were pilot tested in Epworth after the research assistants had undergone a daylong training. Two teams of research assistants collected quantitative data in seven districts as well as qualitative data from SDC members, students and out –of- school youths who had been trained under the project. In addition, the lead researchers collected qualitative data from seven districts and overlapped in one with the research assistants. 13 districts out of the 18 districts of UNICEF convergence were therefore covered by the evaluation. The use of both a variety of data sources and tools enabled triangulation and ensured a reasonable measure of reliability and validity.
Findings and Conclusions:
The program was in line with national efforts and plans to combat the spread of HIV&AIDS particularly the Zimbabwe National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (2006- 2010). At the international level, it was found to be consistent with the MDG targets (MDG 6 -Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases and MDG3 -Promote gender equality and empowerment of women). Within MoESA&C, programmes to combat HIV/AIDS have been running since 1992 (then known as AIDS Action Programmes This was followed in 2002-3 with the HIV/AIDS Life Skills Program which was part of the FYSP (2002-6).
All school heads, teachers and SDC members interviewed were unanimous over the appropriateness of the project. They cited the high toll HIV and AIDS has taken on families.
Both students and teachers rated the relevance of the project to the needs of students /youth, level of students and community very highly. This high degree of relevance was confirmed in the FGDs held with teachers and students in schools that are either active on the project or have some awareness of the project. Some respondents expressed that the project should have started earlier as some said “...it was too late, many people have died” as a result of lack of knowledge about the disease and that it should cover all grades from Grade 0 as children are exposed to abuse and HIV and AIDS even before they come to school. In terms of the project’s consistency with the beliefs and different cultures of the communities, 13.6% said it was not consistent with the culture and the explanation given was that the topic of sex is taboo but the rating was still quite high (66.1% relevant and 20.3% very relevant). The program provided for a more active role for the youth and increased emphasis on higher levels of knowledge/cognition than previous ones. It emphasized higher order skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making (among others) which are more likely to bring about attitudinal and behavioral change essential in attaining and maintaining good ASRH than mere knowledge of facts. It also reinforced the use of participatory methods of teaching for behavior change. Teachers and school heads were aware of the MoESA&C policy that all schools should have set times for formal teaching of HIV and AIDS. They were also aware that they should establish HIV and AIDS clubs.
It is recommended that MoESA&C establishes a unit dedicated to the project with a structure that reaches the school level. At district level, the core of facilitators already trained by the project could be part of provincial /district /cluster level tiers. MoESA&C needs to re-establish SPS with capacity at district and cluster level to in-service and support school-based counselors. Where there are HIV/AIDS counseling centers in the community they need to create a clear space and provision for schoolchildren and teachers. Cases of abuse were currently being referred to the police, but there was no evidence that the Police continued to provide psychosocial support to the abused after the case is “closed”. A database of staff and students trained in HIV/AIDS life skills needs to be kept at every level; the same applies to project materials distributed to schools. This would ensure a more efficient use of the resources. For the ToT approach , provision should be made in the project design to ensure that the second level of training (the cascade) is adequately resourced. In addition, complementary resources should be provided to trainees (training materials, financial, etc) to ensure that outputs of the training exercise are successfully converted into outcomes. An example is that young people who were trained and came up with annual plans, needed complementary financial resources to bring into reality the plans they had drawn up, using the skills from the training. Training alone is not enough.
Lessons Learned (Optional):
The data from schools indicated the following as some of the lessons learnt: (a) there is need for messages on HIV AIDS prevention to continue to be spread; (b) everyone is at risk and should be tested; (c) proper counseling is essential; and (d) children (girls in particular) need to be empowered, to know their rights and given equal opportunities with their boy counterparts. The youth learnt the importance of networking. They also cautioned implementing agencies against making “big promises if you can only offer technical support” otherwise big expectations are created and their non-fulfillment leads to frustration and disappointment. Young people are different; those differences need to be respected. Young people open up more to peers who give them a chance At the secondary school level, G&C needs to be revamped and taken seriously. The idea of guidance should be introduced to primary schools as well. HIV/AIDS issues are still taken as moral issues hence it will be difficulty to break the silence and stigma to confront the problem effectively. Involvement of parents, guardians and youths in training may help to remove some of the communication barriers and ensures that youth get support. This might also help in dismantling some of the instutional barriers to communication. The potential of youth to address and resolve problems that affect them does not seem to be sufficiently appreciated in programming. They need support and to have their differences respected. Young people open up more to peers who give them a chance. Children who participated in training found the experience very empowering particularly the OVCs. Camps were said to have been very effective in changing behaviors and attitudes of children towards their own situations and those of the less privileged. Training for young children needs to be fun and enjoyable. Mutual benefits can be realized from partnerships with other organizations. Some publications being used in the project were produced by such organizations, as SNV. CDC, SAFAIDS, TARSC, and UNESCO. Peer education benefited from such organizations as SPW, MWENGO and others. Teachers trained under the project have facilitated cluster life skills workshops run by other cooperating NGOs such as CAMFED, the District Aids Action Committee (DAAC).The Ministry of Tertiary and Higher Education hosted workshops at reasonable rates for the training workshops. There is need for broad-based genuine involvement of major stakeholders including beneficiaries at every level of programming. For this project special needs of children should have found space.
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