Consulting children about HIV/AIDS in Africa

News 2012

​Consulting children about HIV/AIDS in Africa

April 26, 2012

​The Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED), East Africa held an event and workshop to launch the book “Old Enough To Know: Consulting children about sex and AIDS education in Africa, which is the culmination of a joint research project between the AKU-IED in Tanzania and the Commonwealth Education Centre, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, UK.

This book describes a compelling study concerning children’s knowledge about sex and particularly in context of HIV and AIDS. It was conducted with a sample of eight public secondary schools in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa – Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania. The book has been jointly written by Shelina Walli and Mussa Mohamed (Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development, Tanzania) and Colleen McLaughlin and Susan Kiragu (University of Cambridge).

The research examined the diverse sources and contents of children’s community-based sexual knowledge and asks how this knowledge interacts with AIDS education programmes in school, showcasing the possibilities of consulting pupils by using engaging, interactive and visual methods including digital still photography, mini-video documentaries, as well as interviews and observations.

It engages in dialogue with conflicting voices of community stakeholders who are both aware of the dangers faced by children living in a world with AIDS and who are also afraid of the many cultural, religious and moral restraints to sex education in Africa. The workshop conducted at the AKU-IED by the faculty at the institute and the University of Cambridge,  included responses and comments from professionals in education, experts in the area of children’s rights and specialists in HIV and AIDS, and allowed for focussed discussion on how this study could inform practice and policy. Some of the key findings indicate that school is a useful source of knowledge on HIV/AIDS and that along with their other sources of information students seem to admit that they have enough information on the subject.

Shelina Walli has been involved in the “ASKAIDS” research project for the past two years. She says “The project has been an eye opener for us researchers, teachers and other stakeholders on how much our children ‘know’. The project has also shed light on how best formal and informal knowledge can be utilized to build the capacity of both teachers and pupils to share information that is authentic and relevant to our daily lives within and outside the classrooms. Not surprisingly, pupils from all schools have indicated that they would prefer to learn about HIV/AIDS in an interactive manner where they can freely ask questions and discuss their social lives. The question therefore is: Are our teachers prepared for this change and ready to engage in discussion about this ‘taboo’ topic?”

To support the teachers and involve the pupils, a toolkit comprising teacher and student activities was created as a result of phase 1 of the aproject and phase 2 of the project is currently looking at how best the consultative approach to teaching and learning suggested by the research can be adapted and used by teachers with supporting ideas from the toolkit.

Professor Pauline Rea-Dickins, Director of the Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development, Tanzania adds “ This research is of such vital importance to the region and a major strength of the collaboration is the development of appropriate pedagogical approaches supported by data from this context. It will be very interesting to see what the next phase of the project will bring to the table.”

About Aga Khan University
Chartered in 1983, the Aga Khan University is a private, autonomous university that promotes human welfare through research, teaching and community service initiatives. Based on the principles of quality, access, impact and relevance, the university has campuses and programmes in South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and facilities that include teaching hospitals, Faculties of Health Sciences including a Nursing School and Medical College, Institutes for Educational Development, an Examination Board and an Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. Through its needs-blind admissions policy, the University imbues promising leaders and thinkers of tomorrow with an ethic of service and the skills to help communities solve their most pressing challenges.

About Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development, East Africa
The Institute for Educational Development, EA based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania aims to contribute to the socio-economic development of the region by improving the quality of education through human resource development, institutional capacity building, research and dissemination, policy analysis and advocacy. In East Africa it offers an exceptional Masters of Education programme and a Certificate in Education in various specialisms. AKU-IED, EA is now expanding its activities within East Africa, and providing specialist programmes uniquely suited to the region’s needs. In this way AKU aims to develop a critical mass of skilled professionals, raising human resource capacity for the benefit of the region.

AKU-IED’s Centre for Continuing Education and Life Long Learning (CELL) delivers programmes specifically designed to meet training needs across a range of subject areas. This includes the Certificate in Education and Workshops/Short Courses which provide the professional development that teachs, teacher trainers and educators require for purposes of raising quality levels, providing guidance and mentorship, transferring knowledge and skills, and developing local expertise.

About AKDN
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of development agencies with mandates ranging from health and education to architecture, culture, microfinance, disaster reduction, rural development, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities. AKDN organisations include Aga Khan University.

Sameer Lakhani
Tel: +255 689 141 806