The DBE, joined by the Department of Health, SAPS and other social partners, commemorated World AIDS Day (WAD) 2017 at Dikana High School, located in Nkonjeni, Ulundi, Zululand District, in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, under the theme: “My actions count! I will prevent HIV and TB in my lifetime.”
This theme is in line with the DBE’s recently promulgated National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB for Learners, Educators, Support Staff and Officials in all Primary and Secondary Schools in the Basic Education Sector. Dr Faith Kumalo, Chief Director for Care and Support in Schools, said the current policy differs from the one published in 1999 in some aspects, one of which is that it provides for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). “This year, 2017, is a landmark in the sector with the adoption of this new Policy that will guide our efforts over the coming years. Ideally we want our learners to delay engaging in sexual activities, but in reality this is not the case. Sexuality education will ensure that they are equipped with the necessary information, skills, behaviour and tools to make correct decisions to protect themselves from HIV, STIs and pregnancy,” she said. Collaboration with the Department of Health and social partners will ensure that sexual and reproductive health services (SRHS) are accessible to learners.
As part of the commemorative activities, selected learners and educators from ten neighbouring schools in the Zululand Education District, joined by education officials, took part in a 2km walk through Nkonjeni village, displaying positive messages on how one can stay safe and protected. This walk culminated in their arrival at Dikana High School where health screening, sexual and reproductive health services were provided. An exhibition of quilts, was displayed, depicting the learners’ views on the provision of CSE and SRHS in schools, which the learners had designed as part of the WAD 2017 competition and build-up activities.
A big take-away from the event was a message to the parents regarding their involvement in their children’s education. In addressing the gathering, Ms Judy Dlamini, Deputy Director-General for Institutional Development Support in the KZN Department of Education (DoE) said: “Challenges with curriculum coverage and delivery led us to uncover a myriad of social ills that have had a negative impact on learning and teaching in most of the underperforming schools in our Province. Parental involvement is critical in ensuring that learning and accountability do not only take place in the classroom, but continue in the home as well.” This sentiment was echoed by Mr Lucky Khumalo, a ward councillor for Nkonjeni, when he said: “To prevent these social ills from affecting learners, we should encourage our children to focus on extramural activities. Parents should also make time for their children, find out what is happening in their lives and provide relevant guidance and advice”.
Traditional leadership was also in attendance with Princess Mukelisiwe representing the Zulu royal house and Mr Bhekumusa Michael Cebekhulu representing the local chief. Their advice to the learners was to have a vision for their lives and to pursue it relentlessly. They also advised learners to speak out, practice patience and self-respect, avoid drugs and friends with bad influence, and to protect themselves.
“We have been in discussions with parents on how we, together as a community, can make our schools safe learning spaces for our children and educators. We hope that the messages we have conveyed during these past few days have been entrenched into your values and you are able to translate them into positive actions in your lives”, said Ms Gugu Madlala, Chief Director from KZN DoE.
The winners of the Quilt Project were: Maqhingendoda High School (First Place); Dikana High School (Second Place); and Imbilane High School (Third Place). The prizes included trophies, various Life Skills resources and First Aid Kits. All ten participating schools received a certificate of participation from the DBE.