By Charles Tjatindi
The HIV/AIDS policy for the education sector, which was drafted by the Ministry of Education through its HIV/AIDS Management Unit (HAMU) has reached an advanced stage.
The policy, which was drafted in July 2007, is currently the focus of a workshop under way here, attended by former teachers, directors and officials of the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders.
The workshop aims to amongst others develop an implementation plan for the Workplace HIV/AIDS Policy for the education sector, and to review the draft relief teachers’ strategy.
As the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to impact on the country’s economy, the education sector is no exception. The epidemic is affecting the size, growth rate, age and skill composition of both current and future workforces, as it changes the demand, supply and quality of education.
Such a scenario gave birth to the Workplace HIV and AIDS Policy for the Education Sector, which seeks to create an enabling environment for the implementation of HIV and AIDS programmes within the education sector.
The policy was drafted by a group of education sector stakeholders in Walvis Bay almost a year ago.
A Representative Editorial Board (REB) was formed and tasked with overseeing the consultative process on future drafts. The policy complements and expands on the National Policy on HIV and AIDS for the Education Sector.
At the workshop, the Program Development Specialist from USAID, Dalene van der Westhuizen said teacher absenteeism and employee attrition is impacting negatively on the quality of teaching and learning provided to Namibian learners.
She noted that the HIV epidemic is contributing to increased absenteeism among teachers as they are unable to work either because they are attending funerals, looking after sick relatives or even falling sick themselves.
“It is clear that if we want to slow down and ultimately stop the epidemic we have to focus on keeping people from getting infected in the first place.
Worldwide, for every person on treatment in 2006, six others were newly infected. It is unlikely that governments around the world will be able to sustain the escalating treatment costs indefinitely,” she added.
In 2007, a group of consultants from South Africa were recruited to develop a Relief Teacher Strategy for Namibia. The process has been highly consultative, involving individuals at local, regional and national levels.
The studies identified realities at the school and teacher level, investigated best practices in Namibia and provided inputs into the development of a relief teacher strategy.
A comprehensive strategy for the implementation and monitoring was as a result drafted by the consultants, which is also expected to be reviewed, revised, and finalized during the course of the workshop.
USAID is providing support through the Academy for Educational Development (AED) and other organisations to help orphans and vulnerable children attend school by addressing basic needs such as nutrition, school uniform assistance with school fees, and counselling.
The education sector is the nation’s largest single employer, engaging approximately 38 000 employees, which comprises of managers, professio-nals and support staff.
The workshop ends on Friday.