The Department of Basic Education will from Monday 26 February 2018 commence with advocacy and training workshops on the new DBE National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB for all Learners, Educators, School Support Staff and Officials in all Primary and Secondary Schools (DBE HIV and TB Policy) approved by Cabinet in 2017.
The initial sectoral response to HIV and AIDS, led by the 1999 National Policy on HIV and AIDS for Learners and Educators in Public Schools, Students and Educators in Further Education and Training Institutions, led to the HIV and AIDS Life Skills Education Programme, implemented through Life Orientation since 2000. The 1999 HIV Policy set the basis for a systematic and sector wide approach to managing HIV within the context and conditions of the time.
South Africa currently has the largest HIV programme in the world. Worryingly, new HIV infections continue to be very high and are estimated at 2 000 per week among girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 years. The DBE is a key stakeholder in the country effort to stem this deluge.
“HIV and AIDS is no longer simply a health concern, but a developmental problem that affects the social, cultural, political and economic fabric of the nation. It therefore must be tackled within the context of the behavioural, economic, socio-cultural and environmental factors driving the epidemic. With the evolution of the HIV epidemic over the decades, there has been a need for the Department to revise its approach and strategies in the sector, and to also give expression to the Department’s response to TB in line with the latest available evidence and lessons from implementing the life skills programme”, Minister Motshekga said.
The revised DBE HIV and TB Policy provides a paradigm shift towards approaching HIV as a core management issue and therefore making it the business of every official in the system.
Implementation of the policy in schools:
Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and the provision of Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services are some of the key levers in the Policy and are recognised globally as key strategies to prevent new HIV infection amongst the youth. Comprehensive Sexuality Education is intended to offer young people with the knowledge, skills and efficacy to make informed decisions about their sexuality and lifestyles and has been identified as a game changer to accelerating HIV prevention in South Africa.
In addition, working with the Departments of Health and Social Development as well as partners, and guided by the provisions of the Children’s Act, the Department aims to facilitate access to social welfare and health services, including SRH services.
The Policy also articulates the DBE’s intention to improve the employee and wellness programmes for educators and officials. Finally, TB will receive priority in the sector to support the national efforts on TB Prevention, case-finding, treatment and control.
The full participation of education stakeholders is key in achieving the goals of the policy. The School Governing Bodies, parent community as well as the general community are critical partners in this quest. We rely on their support and contribution to finally turn the tide on HIV and TB in our schools and institutions.
“We encourage all educators, learners, officials and key stakeholders to familiarise themselves with the various components of the DBE HIV and TB Policy as that will enable them to effectively support its implementation on the ground. We further urge parents and the community to partake in parental and community dialogues in their respective locations and to continue engaging in crucial conversations with their children on sexual and reproductive health’’, Motshekga added.
To strengthen lobby efforts led by Provinces and to lift any possible barriers to implementation, the Department will host provincial workshops with key stakeholders to explore feasible ways in which the provisions of the Policies, particularly the provision of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) as well as Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services can best be rendered to learners, educators and support staff within the school setting. The workshops will allow the provinces and districts to unpack their unique challenges and feasibly find long term sustainable solutions for action.