This research was conducted using both the quantitative and qualitative approaches in order to assess comprehensively, the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of primary school teachers, student teachers, and other stakeholders in the education system with regard to life skills, gender, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS. The purpose was to provide adequate information to guide the introduction of an HIV/AIDS and life skills programme in primary schools and teachers training colleges. Altogether, 728 respondents were interviewed - 307 males (42.17%) and 421 females (57.83%) from 21 districts in four Provinces of Butare, Kibuye, Ruhengeri, Umutara and the city of Kigali. The target group comprised 508 primary school teachers (70% of all research participants), 16 TTC (Teacher Training Colleges) teachers, 120 TTC students, 18 parents, 10 heads of primary schools and 56 primary school children. The methodology used included FGDs (Focus Group Discussions), interviews, questionnaires, and observation techniques complemented by the review of existing literature on the subject.The study revealed that a significant number of teachers did not have adequate general knowledge of the sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, while others had either incorrect or little information. Approximately, 85% of teachers said that they encountered problems in finding appropriate responses to questions related to HIV and AIDS with more female teachers (88%) than male teachers (78%) indicating greater difficulties. In addition, less than 20% of the in-service female and male teachers were able to give correct estimates of HIV prevalence in Rwanda, while only slightly more than a quarter of them knew that the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in Rwanda in 1983.It was found that some teachers occasionally spoke about HIV/AIDS with students, but in an unsystematic way, while others had yet to take this initiative. The majority of teachers proposed the idea of formally integrating HIV/AIDS education into the school system. Parents, TTC students, and teachers shared this view. All respondents proposed that, prior to formalising HIV/AIDS as a course in the school curriculum, it was essential to provide training to teachers, make training materials and textbooks available, and to mobilise some of the parents and teachers to participate actively in the AIDS education programme.Less than half of the participating teachers (44% males and 40% females) were unaware of the difference between sexuality and sexual intercourse. Their concept of sexuality was limited to their concept of sex.Some teachers and parents expressed the belief that speaking about condom use influenced the children to engage in sexual immorality. In addition, it was found that school children highly appreciated lessons on sexuality, with notable high participation of the boys while many girls appeared shy.The study revealed the absence of any standardised methodologies for teaching sexuality education; hence, teachers conducted HIV/AIDS lessons in the best ways they knew how. Teachers expressed the need for an appropriate pedagogy that was participatory, included audio-visual material and other relevant teaching aids.Trainee teachers confirmed information from their teachers that there existed neither curriculum nor methodology for HIV/AIDS education in their colleges. They recommended that future teachers be relatively better trained to address the AIDS pandemic.Myths and prejudices surround HIV/AIDS issues. For example, 48% female and 22% male student teachers felt that people with HIV/AIDS should be isolated. In addition, parents were of the view that teaching about condom use to primary school children would lead to promiscuity amongst them.The teachers interviewed considered that both modernity and tradition influenced sexual behaviour and by implication, the spread of HIV and AIDS. Some Rwandan traditional practices such as, polygyny (having multiple wives), 'gukazanura', 'kurumika', 'guhungura', and the belief that 'a woman belonged to the family of her husband and not the husband alone', were described as easy channels of HIV transmission. Teachers proposed that HIV/AIDS education addressed both positive and negative aspects of cultural concerns.Findings exposed a clear need for a comprehensive teacher training programme that would offer teachers adequate and relevant information about HIV and AIDS as well as the related concepts. Undoubtedly, the magnitude of HIV and AIDS pandemic and the high level of ignorance about its nature, demands that education decision-makers and officials initiate the proposed teacher training that would incorporate participatory methodologies, life skills for HIV/AIDS education and care for people living with HIV and AIDS as a matter of urgency. There was a strong feeling amongst many of the teachers that from each school in the country, at least two teachers should be trained as HIV/AIDS counsellors. In addition, a school radio programme, media campaigns, and use of audio visual aids were recommended to enhance HIV/AIDS education.
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