Teaching HIV/AIDS education using the life skills approach in two Durban area high schools.
HIV/AIDS education in schools is necessary in order for young adults to understand the mechanics of the disease, but also so that they do not engage in behaviors that spread HIV. Teaching HIV/AIDS knowledge alone is not adequate because it does not address local contexts and particular strategies, which are critical determinants of the behavioral choices that young adults make. The Department of Education has addressed the need to teach about HIV/AIDS by introducing life skills education. Life skills are generic skills, such as communication skills, decision-making skills, and coping and stress management skills that can be used any time a person is confronted with a difficult situation. Although this strategy is the official policy of the Department of Education, it has not been properly implemented in all schools, thus allowing for unequal HIV/AIDS education in South African schools. This thesis looks at one Grade 9 class in two schools of differing racial composition and in differing economic regions in the greater Durban area. Seventy-seven students completed a questionnaire, 17 students were interviewed, and two teachers completed a questionnaire. Although life skills were part of the curriculum at one school, the majority of students could not correctly identify life skills. At the second school, life skills were not taught to the students. Full basic knowledge of HIV/AIDS is not apparent at either school, although the students at the school that teaches life skills have much more knowledge about transmission and prevention of HIV. At both schools, girls were more educated in prevention and transmission than the boys. At the poorer of the two schools, drawing its student population from local impoverished squatter camps, life skills were not taught and there were low understandings of HIV/AIDS. Here, the students were older and had fewer educational resources. It is these students, who are less knowledgeable about how to protect themselves, and who one would expect to have more experience because they are older, that are at greater risk because of the combination of their sexual habits and low knowledge of good sexual health. At both schools, much improvement in the quality of HIV/AIDS education is necessary in order for students to have a basic understanding of the disease and for them not to engage in behaviors where the disease can be transmitted.
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