2006.11.30: November 30, 2006: Headlines: Directors - Bellamy: Unicef: United Nations: AIDS: Education: Burlington Free Press: Carol Bellamy writes: The Hidden Cost of AIDS

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Carol Bellamy: January 23, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Peace Corps Directors - Bellamy : Carol Bellamy and the Peace Corps: 2006.11.30: November 30, 2006: Headlines: Directors - Bellamy: Unicef: United Nations: AIDS: Education: Burlington Free Press: Carol Bellamy writes: The Hidden Cost of AIDS

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Carol Bellamy writes: The Hidden Cost of AIDS

Carol Bellamy writes: The Hidden Cost of AIDS

"Teacher absenteeism due to AIDS-related deaths, illnesses, and bereavement leave for lost family members is leaving education infrastructures in tatters and leading to a serious decline in productivity in many countries. In addition to illness, HIV-positive teachers are subjected to repeated stigma, which reduces their societal role as mentors and guardians. The result is HIV-positive teachers' withdrawing from the profession out of fear of victimization and abuse. In many communities in developing countries affected by AIDS, schools are closing due to the absence of teachers. " Carol Bellamy was the first returned Volunteer (Guatemala 196365) to be confirmed by the Senate as director of the Peace Corps.

Carol Bellamy writes: The Hidden Cost of AIDS

My Turn: Hidden cost of AIDS: Loss of teachers

Published: Thursday, November 30, 2006
By Carol Bellamy

This year the World AIDS Day theme is accountability. While it is true in this 25th year of the pandemic that some progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, much more needs to be done. This year we must finally recognize and be accountable for yet one more silent crisis brewing in HIV/AIDS-riddled countries -- the loss of teachers due to the disease.

As the former executive director of UNICEF and the Peace Corps, and now as president and CEO of World Learning, based in Brattleboro, I have traveled to more than 100 countries and seen how education benefits children across the globe.

I've looked into the eyes of countless children living in abject poverty who experience extreme hunger, ill health and unbelievable tragedy on a regular basis. It has never ceased to amaze me how, in asking them, "What do you want more then anything else in the world?" the one resounding response invariably given is, "I want to go to school." How, in the midst of so much hardship could they choose education as their one savior?

They are absolutely right, of course. Education really can change their worlds, and in some cases, save lives. Not only can it break the cycle of poverty, but it can also provide a powerful force in curbing HIV/AIDS, particularly for girls. A child who completes primary school is half as likely to become infected.

However, teacher absenteeism due to AIDS-related deaths, illnesses, and bereavement leave for lost family members is leaving education infrastructures in tatters and leading to a serious decline in productivity in many countries. In addition to illness, HIV-positive teachers are subjected to repeated stigma, which reduces their societal role as mentors and guardians. The result is HIV-positive teachers' withdrawing from the profession out of fear of victimization and abuse. In many communities in developing countries affected by AIDS, schools are closing due to the absence of teachers.

Many public health advocates, the media and U.S. government have recently elevated the issue of health care workers affected by the epidemic. But the largest public-sector work force in many countries -- teachers -- has been left behind. The statistics are alarming: Sub-Sahara Africa alone needs to recruit 1.8 million teachers due to teacher attrition. In Kenya, four to six teachers a day die of AIDS-related illnesses; in Swaziland, about 80 to 85 percent of teacher deaths were AIDS-related; and in Namibia, roughly 550 teachers a year die of the disease.

The consequences are dire. If unchecked, nonexistent education systems will lead to increased HIV among students, increased poverty and further barriers to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015.

Because too often HIV/AIDS is perceived to fall solely under the purview of health ministries, governments tend to view teacher attrition as a secondary problem. Cooperation between ministries is crucial. Governments must identify AIDS-related teacher shortages, develop policies of nondiscrimination for HIV-positive teachers, and appoint technical advisers to deal with HIV/AIDS in the workplace. Bold projects must be undertaken to train a new teacher work force and address HIV-related teacher absenteeism. It is the only way to break the cycle and remain accountable to the Millennium Development Goals.

At World Learning, the deafening echo of silence ringing through the schools urges us to act before losing more generations of youths. With this in mind, we are developing practical and effective solutions to the problems of teacher attrition and absenteeism.

I have dedicated my life to helping children attain their dreams of education. I hope never to have to look into a child's eyes and tell her she cannot have the one thing that will help her get ahead. The hemorrhaging of teachers must be stopped. Without education, we will reverse the years of gains made in the fight against HIV/AIDS for many generations.

Carol Bellamy is president and CEO of World Learning/The School for International Training based in Brattleboro, and the former executive director of UNICEF for 10 years. World Learning has operations in more than 75 countries fostering global citizenship through international experiential education and community-driven development programs.




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Story Source: Burlington Free Press

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Directors - Bellamy; Unicef; United Nations; AIDS; Education

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