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Education in Africa

Brianna Jensen, Jasmine Guanzon, Josef Beall,

Spencer Tenney & Tyler Barnes

English 2010

Professor Baird

6 December 2017

Human Immunodeficiency Virus or (HIV), is a lifelong illness with no cure, it has taken

the lives of more than thirty-five million people. It is transmitted primarily through sexual

contact however, it can also be transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood or breastmilk

(Mayo Clinic, 2017). There are roughly thirty-seven and a half million people in the world living

with AIDS, of that thirty-seven million, twenty-five million of them live in Africa. In addition to,

twelve million of the world's children infected with HIV, also reside on this continent (WHO,

2017). What has led to this continents high rate of AIDS can be attributed largely to the lack of

education. Without having access to a primary (elementary) and/or secondary education, children

are not able to gain an understanding of basic skills, and without a formal education comes also a

lack of sexual education. Without this a child is left with no understanding of not only life skills,

but also a lack of safe sex knowledge to help them on their way to planning a future.

A primary education is essential to our well-being, without it one is exposed to many

harmful risks and unknown consequences. We as a human race should be doing everything we

can to ensure that in a place such as Sub-Saharan (south of the Sahara) Africa, where HIV is ever

present, we are ensuring they have access to an education. According to the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights, in article 26 it states that Everyone has a right to education.

Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education

shall be compulsory (required by law). A primary education according to the Department of

Education and Skills, aims to enable a child to live a full life as a child and to help the child

realize his/her full potential. It is also there to enable a child to develop as a social being through

living and co-operating with others and so contribute to the good of society. It is also there to

prepare the child for a continuum of learning. Education is a key factor in promoting social well-

being and poverty reduction (United Nations, 1948). Women with a better education are more

likely to delay marriage and childbearing, which results in having fewer children and healthier

babies (Ayiro, 2012).

There is a proven positive association between economic growth and change in

education. Growth increases with more education and declines with less (Ayiro, 2012). Those

who complete a primary education are half as likely to contract HIV as a person without an

education (Lopez, 2010). Without an education, an individual is more likely to participate in

what are thought of as risky behaviors. These can include things such as: having sex at an early

age, not taking preventative measures to protect themselves during sexual encounters, having

multiple partners and lastly, participating in a sexual relationship with an older individual (Zuma,

et al., 2012). Due to these behaviors, they have put themselves at risk of becoming infected. This

ignorance will lead to the infection of not only the individual but onto any and all of their

current, and potential partners. Without proper teachings, myths have become truths. In one rural

area, it is believed that one way to cure HIV is to have sexual intercourse with a virgin. This

belief has led not only to an increase in rape, but also to an increase in those who are being

exposed and infected with this deadly disease.

An at-risk lifestyle is just one factor in what it is to live with little or no education,

another factor is poverty. Of the 55 poorest countries, 31 are among the most affected by HIV

(Ayiro, 2012). One study was able to show that those who live in poorer countries or more rural

areas, also showed an increase in HIV prevalence as opposed to those countries or areas where

there was a higher standard of living (Zuma, et al., 2012). Life expectancy for an HIV positive

individual will decrease significantly from that of a person living without HIV. If the HIV

sufferer were to be a parent, or important source of income to a household, it could cause great

devastation to a family and leave them destitute. This is where children suffer the most because

with the loss of the HIV infected parent or source of income, they are forced to leave school and

become the main source of income for the family, and are not able to continue or finish their

education. This creates mass amounts of orphans who without proper knowledge of HIV

prevention and without adult supervision, are more likely to take unnecessary and potentially

harmful risks. In fact, 87% of the worlds children living with HIV live in Africa (Lopez, 2010).

This has led to the vicious cycle of a growing generation who is not properly educated, does not

practice safe sex and prevention, and who will likely lead a life of an HIV positive individual just

as those before who came before them. This can then turn into an HIV individual practicing

unsafe sex and then spreading it to others and potentially their own children. This is a dangerous

and never-ending cycle that only leads to more loss and devastation to a country, a family, a


What was also discovered during one study was that females had a much higher rate of

infection than males. Between the different age ranges, women were anywhere from four to eight

times more likely than men to be infected (Zuma, et al., 2012). This disparity between males and

females is thought to be in part because women are less likely than men to have accurate and

comprehensive knowledge about HIV transmission. Why women have a shortage of knowledge

may be related to the culture, where women are often treated as objects or property (Wathuta,

2016). This gender inequality can contribute to their inability to receive a proper education.

Gender inequality can be commonplace in many of the countries throughout Africa; this may be

a reason as to why women account for over half of the newly infected. Over 300,000 women are

infected annually in Africa (Wathuta, 2016). To help put this into perspective, here in the U.S.

we have about 200,000 reported cases of HIV annually (Mayo Clinic, 2017); this number

includes both genders. According to a Human Development report in 2015, Swaziland a

country in Sub-Saharan Africa, ranked 128 out of 155 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.

To further illustrate the issue in Africa, of the fifty-four countries there, over thirty of

them also fall under the Gender Inequality Index as showing gender inequality as highly

prevalent (United Nations Development Programme, 2015). This is an enormous problem in

Africa that needs to be addressed. A proper education could bring about the awareness needed to

eliminate this severely oppressive behavior.

Youth education has been proven to provide protection against HIV infection. A basic

education has a general preventative impact, it informs the youth and enables them to make

decisions concerning their own lives. It helps bring about long-term behavioral changes.

Instruction focused on HIV prevention is crucial to closing persistent fundamental gaps in

knowledge. Millions of young people in badly affected countries are ignorant or have

misconceptions about the disease (Ayiro, 2012). There is a treatment for those infected; it is the

Antiretroviral treatment, it can dramatically slow the diseases progress as well as prevent the

transmission of the virus from one person to another (Mayo Clinic, 2017). Though without the

knowledge of such a treatment many go without, additionally without knowledge of the virus in

some cases, many go on living with it and not even realize they have it and will continue to

spread it.

There are many organizations out there trying to make a difference, helping those who

need it most. With treatment, means a life without risk and the knowledge to teach those who are

not yet at risk. Mothers2mothers (m2m) is an organization out there helping African mothers

who are either prenatal or postnatal in helping to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Nine out

of 10 children with HIV were infected by their mother either through breastfeeding, pregnancy

or labor. For many it is simply unavoidable due to circumstance, mostly in part because they are

living in poverty. Though m2m has seen a great reduction in mother-to-child transmission, more

can be done. However without proper funding, they are currently only able to operate in eight

countries in Africa. According to m2m, fifteen years ago nearly fifteen hundred babies were

infected globally, today that number is four hundred, m2m has helped in achieving this 75% drop

in infection rates. They have achieved this through their Mentor Mother program, where they are

empowering women living with HIV, by employing them, paying them a wage and allowing

them to spread the word to other mothers living with HIV to come and take part in the treatment

that will help them live a longer life and create an awareness between a mother and her baby that

there is a life without HIV, a life without worry of spreading the disease. Without intervention,

up to 40% of infants born to an HIV mother will contract the virus, with treatment, this number

is reduced to a mere 2%. m2ms mission is to eliminate HIV infections in children, to reduce

maternal and child mortality, improve the health of women, their partners and families, to reduce

stigma, discrimination and promote gender equality (mothers2mothers, 2017).

This is merely one organization, there are many more out there with this same goal,

wanting to help prevent the spread of this deadly disease and in turn help create an awareness of

the issue and additionally wanting to help educate those who need it most. We are all in this

together, we should be taking care of, and looking out for each other, regardless of how many

miles and how much distance is between us. It isnt fair to the young and innocent children in

these HIV infected countries, that they should be at risk before they are even given a chance at

life. Educating the young or the old, creating an awareness and spreading the knowledge of

preventative measures, and access to treatments is crucial to the elimination of HIV.



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