BURUNDI: Is HIV/AIDS education failing young people?

Photo: Judith Basutama/IRIN
HIV/AIDS and responsible sexuality are not taught as a subject
Bujumbura, 31 January 2008 (PlusNews) - Burundi's teachers are calling for more HIV/AIDS education in schools, to ensure that older primary school pupils and secondary school students, many of whom are sexually active, are properly equipped with the facts about the pandemic.

Ernest Mberamiheto, deputy minister in charge of primary and secondary education, said government studies in 2004 revealed that 23 percent of school children had had sexual intercourse by the age of 14.

"If HIV infection is not seriously controlled it will negatively affect the educational system as a whole," he told a workshop on a new HIV education guide for teachers, launched in January by the government and the United Nations Children's Fund.

The general manager of Burundi's education bureau, Victoire Nahimana, said civic education courses included subjects such as human rights, democracy, peace and the environment, in addition to HIV/AIDS, but the curriculum for higher primary school grades had not yet been developed and civic education was usually limited to lower primary school grades.

At their discretion, teachers could include snippets about HIV in lessons for older children, but there were no formal classes in the subject. "If we come across a reading text during a French class dealing with HIV/AIDS, then we talk about it ... a reading text like 'symptoms of diseases' or 'how to prevent HIV infection'," said Jean Michael Hassan, a primary school teacher at Kabondo Primary School in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.

"In this way we bring the children to talk about sexually transmittable diseases, including HIV, but I cannot get time to teach HIV/AIDS separately."

HIV/AIDS information in secondary schools is given as part of civic education. Richard Ngendakuriyo, principal of Bujumbura's Mutanga Secondary School, said teenagers were more interested in sexuality and usually expressed a specific interest in learning about HIV.

The ministry of education also has a peer education system, in which some children in state schools are taught about HIV and then encouraged to hold sessions with their classmates, fostering open discussion about sexuality and HIV/AIDS.

Nevertheless, Ngendakuriyo said there was an urgent need to find a firm and formal place for education about HIV and responsible sexuality in the secondary school curriculum. "So far, in the first term of 2008, two pupils have been found to be pregnant and two others have abandoned school, probably for the same reasons."


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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