A government-aided school in Kerala, under a Congress led
Government slammed its doors on two HIV positive siblings.
This was when Congress president Sonia
Gandhi was addressing AIDS
2004 - XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok.
Ananthu, 6, and his sister Akshara, 8, returned empty-handed
from Sree Narayana School in the northern Kannur district
after a group of parents mounted a resistance, fearing that
their children would also get infected by mingling with the
two HIV positive kids.
This is not the first instance of HIV positive siblings being
sent out or denied admission in Kerala. Benson and Benzy,
who had lost their parents to AIDS, had to wage a protracted
battle last year to gain admission to a regular school last
year. The setting was similar. The villagers who learnt that
the kids were HIV positive in fact prevented
their children from attending classes.
In most of the civilized world, an individual's HIV status
is a confidential matter between patient and doctor, and schools
are accordingly unentitled to inquire about their pupils'
Although HIV/AIDS is a major public health issue in Kenya,
its specific impact on infected school children did not receive
media attention until a children's home caring for HIV-infected
orphans sued the government, because its children had been
rejected by various public schools by virtue of their condition.
Catholic Father Angelo D'Agostino, who runs the Nairobi-based
Nyumbani children's home, said it was spending about US $14,000
yearly on maintaining its 41 children attending a private
school, who continued to do so even after the government had
introduced free primary school education January 2003.
The high-profile case, which Nyumbani won, highlighted the
daily discrimination being suffered by many of the country's
HIV-infected orphans. "It [the case] will help to break
down the barrier of discrimination and stigma. The kids [now]
go to public schools. It will be tough, but it has to be done,".
However, according to Chris Ouma, an HIV/AIDS project officer
with the UN Children's Fund, the problem of admitting children
infected with the HIV virus to Kenyan schools was largely
attributable to parents bringing pressure to bear on schools
to reject such children - as opposed to government policy.
"This is not a government problem. As partners, we are
sure the government recognises the rights of these children,"
he said. "What we need is education programmes to sensitise
parents that the kids have a right to learn, and that they
do not present any danger if the right precautions are taken."
In response to the HIV
crisis in Kenya, the education ministry had begun providing
regular training for teachers through government- and NGO-sponsored
seminars to discuss HIV/AIDS-related problems in schools,
and ways of supporting pupils infected and affected by HIV/AIDS,
Ndung'u said. "We go to the seminars to make it easier
for us to deal with the situation."
In addition to counselling, the Kenyan government also recently
introduced HIV/AIDS education into the primary school curriculum.
Although HIV-related illnesses tend to occur among children
in earlier classes, most schools have started an HIV/AIDS
counselling programmes, but only for pupils belonging to the
more affluent sectors of society. "Older children need
more education as they understand more about the stigma related
to the disease," Nding'u observed. "Younger children
do not discriminate against others, because they don't know
about the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS."
Ndung'u has noticed that older children at her school are
beginning to become increasingly sympathetic to chronically
ill fellow pupils, even exempting them from heavy class tasks
such as cleaning. "The children have learned to support
their colleagues. They don't laugh at their colleagues any
more. They even request to go and see a sick colleague in
hospital," she said.
Perhaps proper information and awareness on how HIV infection
is dealt with around the world may help the Kerala Government.
Given below is the Model
Guideline published by the Longwood University in the
MODEL GUIDELINES FOR SCHOOL ATTENDANCE FOR CHILDREN WITH
HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS
The Public School Division will work cooperatively with the
Health Department to ensure compliance with Virginia Code
22.1-271.3 for school attendance of children infected with
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Students are expected to be in compliance with an immunization
schedule (Article 2, 22.1-271.2); however, some required immunizations
may be harmful to the health of the student who is HIV infected
or has AIDS. Students who are HIV infected or have AIDS may
get an exemption from complying with the requirements (Virginia
Code 22.1-27.2, C). School personnel will cooperate with public
health personnel in completing and coordinating immunization
data, exemptions, and exclusions, including immunization forms.
Mandatory screening for HIV infection is not warranted as
a condition for school entry. Upon learning a student is HIV
infected or has AIDS, the superintendent will consult with
the individual's family and physician or a health official
from the local department to determine whether the student
is well enough to stay in school. Since it is known that HIV
is not transmitted through casual contact, any student who
is HIV infected will continue education in a regular classroom
assignment unless the health status interferes significantly
with performance. If a change in the student's program is
necessary, the superintendent or designee, family, and physician
or health official will develop an individual plan, which
is medically, legally, and educationally sound. If the HIV
student is receiving special education services, the services
will be in agreement with established policies.
Parents/guardians may appeal decisions for restriction or
exclusion as determined by the school division's established
All persons privileged with any medical information about
HIV infected students shall be required to treat all proceedings,
discussions, and documents as confidential information. Individuals
will be informed of the situation on a "Need to Know"
basis with written consent of the parent/guardian.
Universal precautions for handling blood will be implemented
within the school setting and on buses. To ensure implementation
of the proper standard operating procedures for all body fluids,
the guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health will
be followed. Inservice training will be provided to all school
personnel. Training will include local division policies;
etiology, transmission, prevention, and risk reduction of
HIV; standard operating procedures for handling blood and
body fluids; and community resources available for information
and referral. Periodic updates will be supplied through inservice
Comprehensive and age-appropriate instruction on the principal
modes by which HIV is spread and the best methods for the
reduction and prevention of AIDS are required to encourage
the support and protection of the HIV infected student. To
enhance school attendance, the school division will collaborate
with public and private organizations in the provision of
support services to HIV infected students.
Schools are key settings for educating children about HIV/AIDS
and for halting the further spread of the HIV infection. Success
in carrying out this function depends upon reaching children
and young adults in time to reinforce positive health behaviours
and alter the behaviours that place young peopleat risk. Schools
reach children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 18,
and have excellent resources for delivering effective education:
skilled teachers; an interactive educational process that
occurs over time; a variety of learning opportunities; materials
and methods; and the ability to involve parents in their children’s
learning. In combating HIV infection, the crucial responsibility
of schools is to teach young people how to avoid either contracting
the infection or transmitting it to others and to serve as
a catalyst for the development of HIV-related policies that
are based on the most current scientific knowledge about HIV
and AIDS. In doing so, schools have the opportunity to make
important improvements in the quality of health education
provided to young people world wide as a step towards improving
global health.A new initiative, Focusing Resources on Effective
School Health (FRESH), launched at the World Education Forum
in Dakar, Senegal (April 2000), and sponsored by the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO),
the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World
Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, signals the
commitment of these agencies to assist national governments
to implement school based health programmes in efficient,
realistic and results-oriented ways.
With respect to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, the four pillars
of the FRESH approach are:
Clear school health policies on HIV/AIDS discrimination;
A healthy environment;
Skills-based education for the prevention of HIV/AIDS;
School-based counselling and student clubs for HIV/AIDSprevention.
It is aimed at providing teachers and other possible ‘HIV/AIDS
educators’ with guidance on how to develop and implement
an effective school-based programme for education on HIV/AIDS
prevention. It focuses on different methods of teaching HIV/AIDS
curricula within the classroom.The
vast experience gained internationally over the last decade
and a half in developing and teaching diverse programmes and
curricula to educate school children on HIV/AIDS prevention
has yielded a well established set of essential considerations
for effective school based HIV/AIDS prevention curricula.