By Irene !Hoaes
Schools from the Karibib Education Cluster gathered at Karibib last Friday to launch the HIV/AIDS Awareness Week, Global Education for All (EFA) Week as well as celebrating the Day of the African Child, which is normally observed on 16 June.
Schools in the Karibib Cluster are from Karibib, Usakos, Omaruru, Otjimbingwe and Okombahe areas in the Erongo region.
Learners from the participating schools put up performances such as dramas, singing and poetry depicting the everyday plight of the African child, such as child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, the effects of HIV/AIDS as well as the importance of education for all children.
The colourful event was attended by school principals, their staff members and other international partners such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and members of the Erongo Education Directorate as well as the Mayor of Karibib and HIV/AIDS activists.
The theme of this year’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Week is “Reduction of multiple partners”, clearly stating that people should reduce their sexual partners to only one loyal partner.
Speakers reminded learners to abstain from sexual activities before marriage and rather concentrate on their schoolwork.
“Abstain from sex from an early age, avoid soliciting sexual workers, avoid sharing of needles for drug usage, avoid abnormal sexual lifestyle and avoid having sex with multiple partners. Rather lead a good, moralistic and healthy lifestyle,” were some of the messages conveyed to the learners during the event.
The Erongo Regional Deputy Director of Education, Mark Jacobs, said there are many enemies that could destroy Namibia’s hard-won independence.
Jacobs who was speaking at the Karibib Education Cluster gathering in Karibib singled out ignorance, HIV/AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse as the evils that can reverse gains of the country’s independence.
Jacobs said to fight these enemies Namibia has adopted certain policies, declarations and strategies.
“For ignorance the Government joined other governments and the world and accepted the declaration ‘Education for All’. For HIV/AIDS “Unity and Abstinence’, for alcohol and drug abuse “Education and Cultures’. All these are strategies that we can use to fight these enemies,” Jacobs told the gathering.
He noted that education provides individuals with the power to reflect and make informed choices and enjoy a better life.
Jacobs reminded learners of the powerful effects on developmental objectives such as empowerment, protection of the environment, better health and good governance.
“Investment in education results in economic growth from which all inhabitants of the country can benefit. Education is also important for the cultivation of values, attitudes and conduct, essential for living together in peace and for personal growth and fulfillment,” argued Jacobs.
Another big enemy that hampers the progress of the country’s education Jacobs highlighted is the impact of HIV/AIDS, which has become a developmental issue.
He noted that the pandemic has reached worrying proportions and that it has become an obstacle to EFA.
“HIV/AIDS affects everybody in society, the skilled, trained, educated, poor and rich. HIV/IADS is draining our country of its intellectual resources,” Jacobs emphasised.
The deputy director told the gathering that the disease also affects the teaching profession heavily, as many teachers die yearly, while many children drop out of school to look after infected family members or because they experience stigmatisation at school and in society.
Jacobs noted that the goal to achieve education for all by the year 2015 would not be easily attained even though major strides have been made towards it.
He highlighted the importance and support of civil society and the private sector if this goal has to be achieved.
Jacobs also reminded learners to honour the memory of those school children killed in Soweto, South Africa, on 16 June 1976, by striving towards those goals the children fought for.
A representative of USAID, Dennis Mwandingi, told learners to adhere to the theme of the HIV/AIDS Awareness week, that of reducing multiple partners or to rather abstain from premature sexual activities.
Mwandingi said the current societal evils lead to broken families and homes.
“Guidance and protection is neglected, leading to a lost society,” Mwandingi added.
He urged learners to carry the message forward to family and friends, in order to build a strong Namibian nation.
The HIV/AIDS Awareness week is commemorated to create a deep awareness amongst school children and people from all walks of life of what the disease is all about and how to prevent it from affecting people.
HIV/AIDS-positive activists also related their stories to the learners in order to show that the disease is real and that people can positively live with it.