From left to right; Dipankar Panth (14), Karthik (14), Amrutha Varsha(14),and Akshatha (14) are peer educators from different schools.
“We are the future. We must learn to be careful and know how to conduct ourselves” says Ramesh a Grade X student from Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh, one of India’s Southern States with a high prevalence of HIV infection. Ramesh and his friends have joined the School AIDS Education Programme. “It helped us know ourselves,” adds Padma, a girl also in Grade X from the same school. Kurnool, nearly 2000 kilometres away from Delhi, has a serious AIDS situation.
Estimates indicate that 34 per cent of reported AIDS cases are in the 15 to 29 year age group. Clearly, adolescents and young people have to be given the knowledge and skills to protect themselves against HIV infection. Seized by the urgency of the situation the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) have collaborated with UNICEF to scale up the School Based Adolescence Programme across 144,409 schools. The objective is to reach out to some 33 million students through secondary and senior secondary schools within the next two to three years. UNICEF, UNFPA and UNESCO have provided technical assistance to this nationwide School AIDS Education Programme, now being implemented across India by the Government. The objective is to reach out to some 33 million students through secondary and senior secondary schools within the next two to three years.
In order to discuss and review the ongoing acceleration of the School AIDS programme, a high level meeting was convened by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), NACO and UNICEF in New Delhi on 15 June. The High Level Meeting chaired by Secretary, Department of Education, Mr B S Baswan, brought together for the first time all the State Education Secretaries and Project Directors of State AIDS Control Programmes from all the 28 States and 7 Union Territories of India. It also brought together Directors of five National Educational Apex Bodies namely the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), National Council of Teachers’ Education (NCTE), National Institute of Open Schools (NIOS) and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). The meeting provided strong policy directives and clear operational guidelines to ensure and sustain rapid scaling up of the programme to cover all schools in the country by the end of 2006. Action Plans for Adolescence Education Programme (AEP) were jointly reviewed in the context of performance benchmarks, goals set for the 2005–2006 period and the coverage planned through Government schools in the same period.
Village Borgaom, Maharashtra. October 27, 2004. Manisha, 19 year old, during the demonstration on the usage of condoms. A part of the HIV/AIDS awareness program initiated by UNICEF.
The Action for AEP has been developed around five key components of integrating HIV prevention with education: (a) 100% Coverage of Children in Secondary and Senior Secondary Schools (b) Integration in Student and Teacher Curriculum (c) Linkages with Elementary Education (Grades I-VII) (d) Reaching out-of-school children through Alternate Innovative Schemes and Adult Education (e) Integration in National and State Education Policy
MHRD and NACO recognise that reaching out-of-school children is a difficult challenge - young people who have never enrolled or dropped out of school are even more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because of adverse social and environmental factors that they face. UNICEF has, in partnership with NACO and SACS, implemented district wide innovative programmes reaching young people in especially vulnerable communities. Additionally, analyses of ongoing youth HIV prevention programmes has been completed, providing a menu of options and tools for scaled implementation for out-of-school children. In partnership with MHRD, NACO, SACS, and other ministries, UNICEF will implement the scaled models of these evidence-based strategies of peer education, with linkages to youth friendly services to ensure coverage of youth in vulnerable communities of fifty-nine high prevalence districts of India.
“Some ten million young people who leave senior school every year, will from now on, have the skills to combat and overcome HIV/AIDS,”
Dr.Quraishi, Director General of National AIDS Control Organisation has provided strong leadership to mainstream HIV Prevention in the education sector. “Some ten million young people who leave senior school every year, will from now on, have the skills to combat and overcome HIV/AIDS,” he says confidently.
HIV/AIDS education in schools is based on developing life skills using a module called “Learning for Life” and Toolkit of Resource Materials developed by MHRD, NACO and UNICEF. Teachers and peer educators are trained in every school to conduct 16-hour learning modules and conduct supporting activities throughout the year. The HIV prevention content is also being integrated into the curriculum and textbooks and in the in-service and pre-service teachers’ training curricula. The Government and the UN are committed to raise the resources required to sustain the Adolescence Education Programme in the coming years.
Mr Cecilio Adorna, UNICEF country representative lauded the bold step taken by the Government to mainstream HIV/AIDS prevention in the national education system. “All young people going to school will now be armed to protect themselves from HIV and AIDS and also be able to spread the knowledge to those who are not so fortunate to be in school,” he said.