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Analysing the response of a Teacher Training Institution to HIV and AIDS:
A case study from Zambia

Lucinda Ramos


SARPN acknowledges HIV/AIDS Impact on Education Clearinghouse as a source of this document:
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This study sought to examine the extent to which a teacher training institution in Zambia was able to address the problem of HIV and AIDS. The report contributes to existing knowledge in the field by using a qualitative in-depth case study approach of a single teacher training college located in a high prevalence province of Zambia. It offers insight into the response through an examination of current policy and practice at both the ministerial and institutional level. The research identifies the impact of HIV and AIDS on staff and students in the college and the existence of institutional policies, structures, teaching programmes and strategies for addressing HIV and AIDS. It describes barriers to effective teaching on HIV and AIDS and the causes for weaknesses in the overall response.

The study found that while attempts were made to establish structures and integrate HIV and AIDS into the current teaching programmes, the response needs much strengthening and improvement. Issues such as lecturer-student sexual relationships, peer pressure, lack of teaching materials, selective teaching practices and discomfort with the subject and lack of policies were all identified as major barriers to adequately address the epidemic and equip future teachers with the skills, attitudes and knowledge for effective teaching on HIV and AIDS. The research concludes that the teacher training college is being only partially responsive to the future needs of teachers and needs much more support from the Ministry of Education and other partners.


This chapter provides the background information and rationale for the study. It presents the main research questions and ends with a description of Zambia’s education sector response to HIV and AIDS.

  1. Problem statement and rationale

    The Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) epidemic has undermined the quality of life and progress toward poverty alleviation in many poor developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10% of the world’s population, but is home to more than 60% of all people living with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) or nearly 26 million people between the ages of 0-49 (UNAIDS 2004). The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) declaration on HIV/AIDS sets the target of reducing HIV infection among 15-24 year olds (the age group with the largest peak) by 25% in the most affected countries by 2005 and, globally by 2010 (UNGASS 2001). A common response that works to prevent the spread of HIV has been known to be education. It has been identified as a “social vaccine” (World Bank 2002) against HIV because it equips young people with invaluable tools to increase self-confidence, social and negotiation skills to improve earning capacity and family well being, to fight poverty and to promote social progress.As education has a key role to play in preventing HIV/AIDS and in mitigating its effects on society, it also calls for expanded action to HIV/AIDS information and education – at the core of this provision are teachers. Mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS in teacher training institutions and equipping teachers with the right skills and attitudes to teach HIV and AIDS education in formal education settings is now recognized at the international level to be vital.

    Teachers play a key role in development of skills and clarification of attitudes and if properly trained can help mitigate HIV infection among young people. Investing in quality education for girls and young women has also been shown to reduce their vulnerability to domestic violence, sexual abuse, and trafficking, and to provide benefits in terms of better health and educational outcomes for both present and future generations Heise, Elsberg, Gottemoeller (1999). Without capacity building of HIV prevention education in teacher training institutions and universities, where future teachers are produced, Education for All (EFA) is not likely to be attained.

    Apart from being instrumental in the delivery of HIV and AIDS education, teachers in Africa are regularly singled out as being a high-risk group with respect to HIV infection, however, teacher mortality rates from AIDS are usually considerably lower than for the adult population as a whole making them much lower than has been suggested by most expert commentators and the media (Bennell 2003). Nevertheless it is imperative that HIV and AIDS workplace policies for education institutions are designed and implemented and that teachers participate in solid pre-service and in-service teacher training for HIV and AIDS education.

    Some teacher training institutions in Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries and universities have succeeded in developing institutional policy on HIV and AIDS including workplace policies, the integration of HIV and AIDS into the curricula, and implementation of training, support and counselling services for students and staff. However, many of the teacher training institutions and universities have weak structures and have limited collaboration with other stakeholders in the field of HIV prevention. These institutions need to identify gaps in current programmes, identify best practices and they need assistance in developing policies and implementation strategies. There is limited available information to date on HIV and AIDS pre-service teacher programmes for teachers in sub-Saharan Africa, and most of the information does not offer hard data on measuring such programmes for their effectiveness (UNESCO 2006).

    Research has shown that there is little evidence that HIV/AIDS education in schools has a significant impact on sexual behaviour and that programmes have failed to alter behaviour in spite of high levels of knowledge of risks among students at both primary and secondary schools (Bennell 2004). Lack of time, resources and training often mean that curriculum based education as well as counselling and peer education is inadequate. Poorly trained teachers are often too shy to teach sex education and often teachers lack commitment to teach the topic in an often over-crowded curriculum (Boler and Jellema 2005). This study, through zeroing in on the case of Zambia, will seek to identify relevant and appropriate actions and approaches that teacher training institutions in sub-Saharan Africa can take to strengthen their response and better prepare teachers to confront teaching in a world with HIV and AIDS.

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