Namibia records 160 000 AIDS orphans

Approximately 900 teachers in Namibia are infected with HIV/AIDS where Caprivi and Ohangwena regions have the highest rate of infection among teachers with 33% and 28% infection respectively.
This was revealed by Ben Muleko, a Senior Education Officer of the Ministry of Education’s HIV/AIDS Management Unit (Hamu) at the Hardap Grade 10 Education Conference on Friday night.
According to Hamu’s research, in 1995, only 10 teachers in Namibia were infected, a figure which reached 500 in 2005, before the latest statistics.
Of those findings, 580 teachers have died because of AIDS this year alone, while another 200 died despite being on ARVs.
“The sad part is that most of the teachers we are losing are the best ones and the trend is continuing,” said Muleko.
The research was conducted and the results were obtained through the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
The base scenario of projected levels of HIV infection among Namibia’s estimated 20 000 teachers is 23%.
“The prevalence is not going down, that 23% might go higher considering the current rate of teachers also dating children, so it is not good news at all. The impact of AIDS on our education has been immense; the supply and demand of education is heavily tilted against us. We decided to embark on a study to assess the magnitude of the problem (HIV) and find out the type of programmes we need for our teachers, staff members and learners. Above all, we needed to find out how we should help the infected and affected teachers, staff members and learners as well as  revise our (education) planning accordingly,” said Muleko.
Hamu says absenteeism both for funerals and attending to ill health is exacerbating the existing problems, although the greater impact and stress if falling on female employees.
The biggest implication however is a likelihood of an increase in shortage of teachers in the near future due to ill health.
“Quality will be affected as unqualified teachers will have to be employed as relief teachers.
In addition, teacher training (both INSET and PRESET) to include HIV and AIDS in the curricular, hence a need for teacher educators to be trained. There is however a lack of a separate vote and an “HIV and AIDS emergency fund” within the government budget to address the shortages/absenteeism of teachers and expansion of school feeding programme,” he said.
Namibia just like much of southern Africa does not have facts and figures on the number of students infected with HIV/AIDS due to the current law which protects children under the age of 18.
“We cannot do a study on learners because of the law that need to be changed. However, by next year we will carry out a study on the students infected and find solutions because Government is now pushing for age of consent to be moved from 18 to 16, where the grade 10s are because we suspect too much sexual activities are occurring at that level. Still even if the age of consent is cut to 16, we will need the parental permission,” said Muleko.
The two ministries are in discussions for student, counseling and testing campaigns to help educate learners more on HIV related matters.
Added Muleko, “If teachers are falling victims to HIV, who then will teach the children about the disease? We need to help the teachers first on HIV related matters before they can go to talk to learners. The statistics on teachers will be availed towards the end of August after we have gone to double check a few facts on one or two regions.”
The Ohangwena region has the highest number of enrolment in Namibia, with close to 90 000 learners enrolling every year.
The number of orphans who lost their mothers to AIDS this year and are under the age of 15 years has risen to 160 000 from 60 000 in 2005.
Hamu says this number is expected to increase with another ten thousand in 2014.
By the end of this year, 30% of children aged between 10 and 14 will be orphaned by AIDSs, while 20% of the 5 to 9 age group will be orphaned.
The number of AIDS related deaths amongst children between 5 and 9 rose steadily between 2007 and 2012, from 550 to 800 children per year.