HIV education in South African schools: the dilemma and conflicts of educators

Case Studies & Research
8 p.
Periodical title
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 37(Suppl 2)

Educators within the school system are well placed to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge and skills in order for adolescents to be equipped for appropriate sexual decision-making. The aim of this research was to provide an understanding of educators' beliefs, attitudes and behaviours with regard to sexual and reproductive health promotion. Methods: Individual interviews were conducted with 15 educators from demographically diverse high schools in the Western Cape. One-off interviews were conducted with Grade 8 Life Orientation educators and principals. The interviews were audio-recorded, with one exception. The resulting data were analysed using the qualitative computer package NVivo, as well as the grounded theory method. Results: The findings indicate that many educators are conflicted about HIV and sex education, as they perceive it as contradicting their values and beliefs. The overwhelming majority was in support of the promotion of abstinence, but felt personally challenged in teaching safe sex practices. Conclusions: The impact of broader socioeconomic factors on education was noted, such as the dysfunctional homes of learners, poor role models, inadequate life-skills, violence, and crime. The findings highlight the need for a comprehensive approach towards sexual health intervention programmes that is sensitive to the cultural and social context in which it is developed and implemented.

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