Key findings: The interview-based survey of educators shows that the majority are aware of some DoE workplace policies or directives, such as giving sick leave to educators (87%) and the prohibition on sexual relationships between educators and learners (64%). Educators are also aware of the DoE’s HIV/AIDS Policy (65%), but are less aware of their unions’ policies (46%). An overwhelming majority of educators are willing to teach learners about sexuality and safe sex practices, but only 52% of the educators have attended HIV/AIDS training and workshops on life skills education, and 48%have ever taught a class on HIV/AIDS. A minority of the schools have an AIDS Committee (39%), have a system for replacing absent educators (31%), or are aware that the DoE provides care to educators with drinking problems (22%).
The majority (65.1%) of educators are aware of the DoE’s HIV/AIDS Policy. Although the level of awareness about union?s policies on HIV/AIDS is low (45.5%), the overwhelming majority (94.6%) of educators are keen to find out more about them.
Those educators who did read or study the DoE’s HIV/AIDS policy (89%), found it very useful or useful (90.9%), but felt that it did not address the issue of stigma adequately (57.5%).
Despite the HIV/AIDS Policy’s call for the establishment of a Health Advisory Council (HAC) at every school, only a minority of the educators (39%) indicate that their schools have an AIDS Committee.
Concerning the implementation of the HIV/AIDS Policy, only half (50.1%) of all educators are aware of its existence in their school.
The results from this study suggest that the majority of the educators are aware of workplace policies or directives, such as giving sick leave to educators (87%) and prohibition of sexual relationships between educators and learners (64%).
Nearly 31% of the educators, mostly white, coloured and Indian, indicate that their schools have a system for replacing absent educators, whereas 22% of educators, mostly in the Western Cape and Northern Cape, are aware that the DoE provides care to educators with drinking problems.
Most educators (60%), especially white, coloured, and those from some major urban areas in the Western Cape and Gauteng, indicate that their schools have access to social work services.
Furthermore, a slight majority (52%) of educators have attended training and workshops on life skills and almost one half (48%) have attended HIV/AIDS education.
Only 48% of educators have ever taught a class on HIV/AIDS, but the overwhelming majority (80% and over) are willing to teach their learners about human sexuality and safe sex practices. However, more than half (55%) of white educators are not keen to teach learners about the use of condoms.
Various stakeholders provide educator support, with the main support coming from School Governing Bodies (SGB) (80%) and unions (78%), with the DoE, the unions, and faith-based organisations (FBOs) providing stronger supporter of their role in HIV/AIDS education.
Educators indicate that they require specific support from DoE, such as more programmes, workshops and manuals for themselves, and free antiretroviral (ARV) therapy. The literacy level on ARVs was found to be relatively high.
The DoE is encouraged to inform all educators about their workplace policies, especially to institutions in poorer and more rural provinces. Even more importantly, unions must develop advocacy campaigns to inform their members about their HIV/AIDS policies.
To deal properly with HIV/AIDS in schools, all institutions should be encouraged to have HIV/AIDS implementation plans in place, and to set up AIDS Committees to oversee their implementation.
Whereas the sick leave policy addresses the needs of the HIV/AIDS epidemic adequately and most educators do know about it, there is clearly a great need to fully implement the policy to cover teachers absent from work. Absenteeism generates a heavy burden for the remaining educators especially in schools with mainly African educators located in some poor neighbourhoods that have a higher proportion of rural schools.
Stigma presents a major hurdle in the fight against HIV/AIDS and must be addressed in both the communities and the educational institutions.
The issue of counselling of community members and learners is of growing importance, especially with the increasing number of orphans and vulnerable children in the country.
It is also important that the DoE and the parents of the learners provide more support to the educators to encourage them to remain in the profession. Similarly, SGBs and parents of learners must also provide more support to teachers in their role in HIV/AIDS education.
To ensure that educator’s needs are catered for and to reduce educator?s attrition, the DoE should consider providing:
- more programmes, workshops and manuals that facilitate the prevention of new HIV infections among educators and learners;
- access to free treatment and medication, especially antiretroviral treatment;
- financial support for the care of ill educators and learners.