The voices and identities of Botswana's school children. Gender, sexuality, HIV/AIDS and life skills in education

Case Studies & Research

Although Botswana's youth constitute 47% of the total population, HIV prevalence among pregnant women aged 15-19 years stands at 22.8% and 38.6% for the 20-24 year olds. The 2004 Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS II) results continue to show that the virus has a very acute gender dimension, where for every HIV positive boy aged 15-19 years, there are three HIV positive girls. Although education statistics (2001) show a general decline in primary school dropout rate, pregnancy alone contributed to 1.8% of all dropouts nationwide. This document demonstrates that schools are not neutral institutions concerned only with developing the potential of pupils, but that they also play a key part in creating and reinforcing inequalities between boy and girl pupils. But the researchers also address the young people as active beings, who construct and negotiate their identities in school. The young people's views on topics such as sex and gender, sexual harassment, corporal punishment and, relations with teachers, clearly emerge in the engaging and loosely structured interviews they conducted with them; and their resulting voices are reproduced and analysed in the document. In order to stimulate discussion around 'sensitive issues,' the researchers used innovative methods like presenting drawings to young people and asking them to respond to these.

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