Opening up Access to Learning in High HIV Prevalence Areas of sub-Saharan Africa

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF5 Sub-theme: Health // AIDS is recognised to be a major threat to national development in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Access to education, at the heart of development, has been especially hard hit and despite efforts to strengthen education systems there is increasing evidence that not enough is yet being done (Kendall and O'Gara, 2007, Bennell, 2003). Increasing numbers of orphans and other vulnerable children are unable to attend school regularly and schools, strongly challenged to meet the needs of children who walk in the door, are unlikely to reach out to those beyond the school gate. In these countries there is an urgent need for governments to take effective action to prevent the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and protect the rights of vulnerable children to schooling. (Pridmore and Yates, 2005) // This paper argues that open and flexible learning can play a proactive role in facilitating such government action through offering alternative pathways to learning that complement and enrich conventional schooling and meet learners' needs more effectively. To support this argument the paper firstly reviews key open learning initiatives in SSA that aim to reduce the spread of HIV through prevention education and ‘edutainment’, considers their impact and identifies principles of best practice. Secondly, the paper draws on work in progress on the SOFIE Project to identify key factors influencing access to schooling in high HIV prevalence areas of SSA and educational interventions to increase access to learning. Finally it considers what a new, more appropriate model of schooling might look like and considers the preconditions needed for such educational reform. // The SOFIE Project aims to strengthen open and flexible learning to increase educational access for young people living in high HIV prevalence areas in Malawi and Lesotho. The Project started in April 2007 with funding from the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID) and the Economics and Social Research Council (ESRC). It is directed by Pat Pridmore and Chris Yates at the London Institute of Education working in collaboration with partners at the Universities of Malawi and Lesotho and the South African Institute for Distance Education. // Paper ID 292

Sub-Saharan Africa