By Anna Ingwafa
A desk review drafted by the Education Sector Aids Response Trust (ESART) in September 2007 has indicated that sick leave is the most common amongst the employees in the education sector and that there is a rising tendency towards funeral attendance, said Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) President Simeon Kavila at the launching of the Education Sector Employee Health Day on behalf of Basilius Haingura at Ongwediva.
Kavila welcomed the Ministry of Education initiative, saying that the move comes at the right time when Nantu has embarked upon programmes that aim to mitigate the impact of diseases on the teaching profession.
He said that an absence of one teacher from his/her workplace has an effect on approximately 210 learners daily and they remain unattended, and fail to obtain the necessary knowledge and skills on that day, due to absenteeism.
“The Edusector Health Day is exactly aimed at curbing this impact and clearly coincides with the policy objectives that Nantu and its development partners set themselves on achieving. HIV and Aids is not the only threat to the teaching profession as many of our teachers are daily booked off due to one or another disease.”
He stressed that the Edusector Health Day is a welcome boost, as it enables the sector’s employees to go for any health related testing, for example, blood sugar level, blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as cancer, cholera, TB, malaria and other life-threatening diseases.
“Knowing your health status has one major advantage, and that is to enable you to manage whatever disease you may detect. The management of the disease will depend on the individuals themselves, but knowledge of your health status will provide you with all the necessary tools to properly manage it for a prolonged life. Go for voluntary counselling and testing and make best use of this opportunity on this Edusector Health Day,” he encouraged.
According to the Nantu president, Namibia is losing qualified teaching personnel who are very difficult to replace, while the number of children and youth requiring education continues to grow.
He said teachers and learners living with HIV are facing stigma and discrimination and there has been and increase in absenteeism due to illness and attending of funerals.
He noted that Nantu has put in place mechanisms that will be used to enlighten teachers about their rights, address stigma and discrimination, and protect teachers infected or affected by HIV/Aids.
“We have reviewed our HIV/Aids policy to be in line with the changing times.
We provided input in policy formulation by the HIV/Aids Management Unit (Hamu) with regards to workplace wellness policy and relief teacher strategy, and we have recently established a teacher network for positively living teachers, giving them support to publicly declare their status and mitigate the impact,” Kavila explained.
He further said Nantu aims to emulate the good example set by Hamu and USAIDS to have a teacher’s health day, which will be in the same format as the Edusector Health Day and to host such events across the country in all thirteen regions.
“Our ultimate aim in all these aspects is the promotion of the well being of the teachers,” Kavila concluded.