HIV and AIDs education and meaning-making among learners in one rural secondary school in Lesotho.
Monyake, Aletta Matopollo.
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Using one rural secondary school in the district of Mafeteng in Lesotho as a case study, the study reported in this thesis sought to examine the meaning that young people in Lesotho attach to the HIV and AIDS education messages that they receive from the school curriculum. It further explored the various factors that informed the meaning and the implications that it may have for the curriculum development that targets HIV prevention. The study addressed the following research questions: What meaning do young people make of the messages that they receive from the school HIV and AIDS programme and what factors inform it.? Located within the interpretive paradigm, the study used a qualitative research design to address the research questions. The methods of data collection included questionnaires, document analysis and participatory workshops (involving letter writing and role play) supplemented by focus group discussions with a purposely selected sample of 12 learners and 12 teachers. Using a Theory of Change adapted from Unterhalter et al. (2014) on what makes schools work for girls education, the symbolic interaction theory advanced by Mead (1959) to analyse teachers’ role preparedness for HIV and AIDS teaching and Durkheim’s theory of meaning-making (1933) to analyse the meaning that learners make of the HIV and AIDS education that they receive in schools as a theoretical framework, the thesis organises the analysis into three components. The first component focuses on curriculum policies that inform the teaching of HIV and AIDS education in Lesotho secondary schools and teacher training institutions. The second component examines how educators are prepared for the role of educating the youth about HIV and AIDS and how they understand and enact this role; the third component addresses the main objective of the study: Analysing the meaning that learners make of the HIV and AIDS education that they receive in (and around) schools. The findings suggest that not all the teachers leave their teacher training programmes with training in HIV and AIDS education; those who do, do not have adequate skills to effectively teach the content in schools. Further, the in-service teacher education provided for teachers in the country since the introduction of Life Skills education is also not adequate. This leaves teachers without appropriate and relevant content and pedagogical skills needed to effectively teach the topic. The teachers themselves feel inadequately trained and the socio-cultural context, including the silence around young people’s sex and sexuality, further curtail their efforts in the teaching of HIV and AIDS. In relation to the learners’ experiences and the meaning that they make of the messages that they receive from the HIV and AIDS curriculum, the findings suggest that on the one hand, the learners find the programme useful and informative. On the other hand, they find it inadequate, unrealistic and not relevant to their needs as young people. The learners have varying forms of understanding of HIV and AIDS, including myths, misconceptions and misinformation about the epidemic. In addition, linked to the taboos that surround HIV and AIDS and related issues (including sex organs and sexual intercourse), the learners use a number of metaphors and euphemisms to define and talk about HIV and AIDS. These metaphors include HIV and AIDS as danger, as punishment, as witchcraft and as a western conspiracy. Together, these metaphors tend to reinforce stigmatization, discrimination and the fear of HIV infected and affected people. Further, the euphemisms tend to distort the HIV and AIDS messages provided to the learners as some of them reportedly apply their understandings literally to their lives. Finally, meaning-making among the young people is informed by, among others, gendered power relations, gender roles, stigma and discrimination as well as by an inadequate and irrelevant curriculum, and poorly prepared teachers. These factors are likely to have a negative influence on the effectiveness of HIV prevention and the care messages that young people receive in the school. This has implications for curriculum developers, teachers and policy makers regarding programming aimed at addressing HIV and AIDS prevention and care among young people in schools.