June 05, 2002 2 min read

AIDS Impact

Teachers in Africa are dying of AIDS faster than replacements can be hired, crippling efforts to enroll all children in primary school by 2015 in some nations, a recent World Bank report warns.

In “Education and HIV/AIDS: A Window of Hope,” the World Bank urges countries to bolster their education systems to serve as a “vaccine” to halt the spread of the virus that causes AIDS and to decrease illiteracy.

More than 113 million children ages 6 to 12 don’t attend school in developing countries worldwide. Meanwhile, 28 of the world’s poorest countries are also among the worst hit by HIV/AIDS.

View the report “Education and HIV/AIDS: A Window of Hope,” from the World Bank. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

“HIV/AIDS is compromising the ability for countries to achieve universal basic education,” Donald Bundy, the report’s lead author, said at a news conference in Washington last month.

As the World Bank labors to encourage countries to lessen the international education gap by ensuring all citizens receive at least five years of schooling, the report says the ravages of AIDS threaten to dismantle progress in achieving that goal.

In Africa, the percentage of teachers infected with the virus is startling in some places. More than 30 percent of teachers in parts of Malawi and Uganda are HIV-positive. About 19 percent of Zambian teachers have the virus, with about 1,000 dying annually. (“AFT Aims to Enlist African Teachers in War on AIDS,” Aug. 8, 2001.)

Still, Mr. Bundy, who also is a World Bank specialist on school health, pointed out that teacher deaths are not the disease’s lone impact on education. High teacher-absentee rates, because instructors typically are sick for almost a decade before dying, also leave schools without educators or substitutes.

In the worst-affected countries in Africa, “one finds schools which are empty or schools with one teacher and several hundred students,” Mr. Bundy said.

Identifying people with the basic education necessary to become teachers is challenging. Zambia, for example, is trying to keep pace by training 2,000 new teachers annually—roughly double the number killed there by the disease, Mr. Bundy said.

As adults are dying, he added, more children are being orphaned at the “fastest rate known ever in peacetime.” HIV/AIDS has orphaned 13 million children worldwide.

Among the strategies the World Bank outlines to respond to the impact of the virus on teaching are an expansion of in-service training; lower professional requirements for teachers; and recruitment of teachers from nontraditional fields.

—Karla Scoon Reid

A version of this article appeared in the June 05, 2002 edition of Education Week