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Cameroon trains teachers on HIV education in primary schools

© UNICEF Cameroon/2009/Zulfiqar
Cameroon has an average national ratio of 1 teacher to 53 students in primary schools, and in some urban areas the ratio is as high as 1 to 100. Here, a teacher interacts with her students at Essos 2 Primary School in Yaounde.

Diplomas of excellence were distributed to 150 teachers in Cameroon yesterday, World Teachers' Day. The honoured educators have adopted best teaching practices and outstanding performance in the classroom. Here is a related story.

NEW YORK, USA, 6 October 2009 – According to UNAIDS, some 500,000 people in Cameroon are living with HIV. To help prevent and combat the further spread of infection, the government has begun integrating HIV/AIDS education into the country’s formal primary school curriculum, making it mandatory for children from 6 to 12 years of age.

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On a recent school day at the Essos 2 primary school in Yaounde, Cameroon, teacher Sarah Hyoba helped her 10- and 11-year-old students prepare for a test. She quizzed them about HIV and AIDS as students jumped at the chance to answer her questions.

Some pupils already knew people who had died from AIDS, and at least one student lost a parent to the disease. But Ms. Hyoba said many of her students had not previously learned about the disease. The subject is taboo within the community, and some people prefer not to talk about it.

“Some families won’t acknowledge that a person has HIV/AIDS. They will say it’s something else, such as malaria or some other disease,” the teacher noted. “I have to make sure I explain it clearly, so there are no misunderstandings.”

© UNICEF Cameroon/2009/Zulfiqar
Some 15,000 teaching guides have been distributed in schools in Cameroon in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic Education. UNICEF supports 300 schools in the country through the implementation of the 'child-friendly schools' model.

Ms. Hyoba hopes her students will play a role in dispelling rumours about how the infection is spread. Children can help disseminate the facts, she said.

HIV Education training

With support from UNICEF, Cameroon’s Ministry of Basic Education implemented a special training program. Groups of around 30 teachers have been trained in two-day workshops, starting this year. So far, 750 teachers from across the country have been enrolled in the program, with the goal of reaching 900 by the end of October 2009.

The children in the programme are taught age-specific lessons about how the virus is contracted as well as issues related to stigma and discrimination. 

The importance of teachers

Jacqueline Bahida trains teachers on HIV Education strategies.  She helps teachers prepare lessons and learn how to incorporate HIV/AIDS education in the subjects they teach.

“The teachers must use the right language and give correct information on the transmission of the virus as there are many rumours that get passed around creating misinformation and discrimination.” Ms. Bahida says.
“The training program is a sign of government commitment to tackle a key problem,” said UNICEF Cameroon Chief of Education Dr. Vijitha M. Eyango.

Fighting stigma

The stigma of HIV/AIDS has prevented many governments from integrating HIV education into the formal curriculum in other countries. 

 “The fact that the government committed to placing this into the formal education system means that it becomes a sustainable intervention and it becomes national right away,” Dr. Eyango said.

“The message is not only for the children.  It also gets back to the parents and the rest of the community.”




2 October 2009:
UNICEF Cameroon Chief Education Officer Dr. Vijitha Eyango talks about HIV education.
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