Western Cape pupils from Grade one are going to be taught about HIV/AIDS as past of the National Life Skills programme that will be implemented at all schools in the province within the next three years.

More than a thousand primary school teachers in the Western Cape will undergo life skills training before March next year as part of the province’€™s renewed drive to tackle, among others, the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Petra Abrahamse, Western Cape co-ordinator for the Life Skills programme, said there was still resistance and denial within some sectors of the community, but “we will work with that resistance”.

Next week has been declared National Schools HIV/AIDS week with the theme for this year: “Men can make a difference”.

Schools have been requested to arrange activities aimed at HIV/AIDS awareness.

Despite statistics indicating that 60% of all new HIV infections occurred in those between 15 and 25 years of age, Abrahamse said the Western Cape Education department had no policy on the distribution of condoms in schools.

“It is a sensitive topic, but we do talk around the ABC: Abstain, Be Faithful or Condomise.

“But we still need to debate this issue within the province.”

Abrahamse said there were health units within the province that specifically catered for the youth.

“Teenagers will be able to get condoms from these units,” she said.

The Western Cape Education Department has been granted R2,3-million for the training of Grade 1 to 7 teachers in HIV/AIDS education.

Some of this funding was used to pilot the training at 20 schools. This in turn has led to the training of the more than 1 000 teachers at 20% of the province’€™s primary schools by March next year.

The remainder of the schools will be targeted before 2003.

Mary Crewe, director at the Centre for the Study of AIDS (University of Pretoria), said it was crucial to distribute condoms in schools with good adolescent support programmes.

“Research shows that good support programmes, education and a mature attitude coupled with condom distribution will see the level of sexual activity drop.”
Crewe said the Life Skills programme had been erratic and patchy across the country “but very good considering all the constraints”.

“But in reality, unless the whole school embraces AIDS as an issue and mainstreams it and integrates it into all curricula it remains sidelined.”

Abrahamse said the programme would be taught during the life orientation period at schools.

“For example, Grade ones would be taught around ‘€“ “My body, self esteem and what is HIV/AIDS.”