Aids on agenda at principals' indaba

Headmasters from all over the country are to discuss the impact of HIV/Aids on the teaching profession, writes Edwin Naidu

Against a background that HIV/Aids will wipe out most teachers in Africa within a decade, principals from around South Africa will meet in Cape Town this month to address various concerns in education.

The Manifesto on Values in Education, released in August, will be debated, and the conference, which has the theme “Adding Value to Education”, will also focus on HIV/Aids, school safety, drugs and curriculum transformation.

The indaba, organised by the South African Principals Association, will take place in Bellville, Cape Town and more than 400 headmasters are expected to attend.

Deputy Minister of Education Mosibudi Mangena will speak about his hopes for education in the next five years.

The principals’ conference follows a global education indaba in July organised by Education International (EI), a grouping of around 300 teaching bodies in 155 countries.

Delegates at the conference in Jomtein, Thailand, which included the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), heard that the Aids pandemic has had a bigger effect on teaching than on any other profession, and threatens to wipe out teachers in Africa within 10 years.

“The percentage of teachers who have died or carry the HIV virus is higher than for most professional groups,” said Fred van Leeuwen, secretary-general of EI.

The conference focused on the commercialisation of education, the employment rights of teachers and the effects of information technology, as well as the devastating effects of HIV/Aids on the profession.

Between 35 and 40% of secondary school teachers in Botswana are infected with HIV, and the incidence in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland, Malawi and Zambia is also high.

“In the next 10 years, if nothing is done, the ranks of teachers will completely disappear in Africa,” said Monique Fouilhoux, the EI’s Aids specialist.

“Because of Aids, there is a shortage of teachers,” said Pitso Mosothoane of the Lesotho Association of Teachers. Even before HIV-Aids, we had a shortage of teachers, but the pandemic has aggravated it,” said Japhta Radibe of the Botswana Teachers Union.

Sadtu warned: “As evidence becomes available of the devastating effects of HIV/Aids on all South Africans, and teachers in particular, we are more and more likely to lose teachers to the disease.”

The National Association of Professional Teachers of South Africa said it is at the forefront of the fight against HIV/Aids. The association has told its members to take part in campaigns, and support infected and affected people.

Minister of Education Kader Asmal has said that many schools are already experiencing the effects of the epidemic as teachers, learners and members of their families fall ill.

- The Teacher/M&G Media, Johannesburg, September 2001.

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