DBE’s policy on HIV, STIs and TB to address ‘management challenge’

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The SA Department of Basic Education’s national policy on HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and TB gazetted recently seeks to address the “significant management challenge” presented by these diseases as they continue to “erode” the capacity of government schools to efficiently deliver on their mandate, says a Legalbrief Policy Watch report. This is noting the impact of HIV, STIs and TB on learners, educators, school support staff and officials alike, according to a foreword from Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Released in draft form more than two years ago for comment, the policy seeks to “accelerate (the) implementation of a comprehensive strategy for prevention, treatment, care and support” – particularly among children living with, affected or made more vulnerable by the diseases, along with those grappling with issues related to unintended pregnancy. Fundamental to this will be working relationships with the Departments of Health and Social Development.

Against that backdrop, the report says policy goals include: increasing access to information on safer sex and lifestyle choices; improved access to testing, diagnosis and counselling, as well as effective treatment and care; a safe, ‘protective’ school environment; and a school system that facilitates reintegration. Given that no learner should be denied access to basic education because of his/her ‘real or perceived HIV and/or TB status or … pregnancy’ – and that HIV or TB testing as a prerequisite for recruitment, appointment, continued employment, promotion, training and benefits is prohibited – the policy seeks to promote government’s ‘deepened commitment to equal treatment and social justice’, and to reduce the stigmatization of people living with HIV and TB. It is especially sensitive to the ‘vulnerabilities’ of all learners to any form of sexual violence and abuse.

The report says the document identifies several areas requiring practical interventions, including: “comprehensive sexuality education” as a “compulsory … timetabled subject”; related curriculum development and pre- and post- graduation educator training and support; flexible programme design and scheduling to accommodate the “orphaned, vulnerable, infected or affected”; supplementary feeding through the school nutrition programme; zero tolerance to any form of sexual abuse; access to employee wellness programmes; and strategic partnerships with key stakeholder, community-based and non-government organisations. Implementation “field guides” yet to be developed will inform the work of sub-committees comprising the heads of education departments and tasked, among other things with: coordinating operational activities; setting norms and standards; and monitoring progress against “outcome indicators”.

Legalbrief Policy Watch report

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