Media statement on the issue relating to the testing of learners in the Nelson Mandela Education District
The provision of public quality education in Eastern Cape, has been met with challenges in certain areas such as the Nelson Mandela and OR Tambo Coastal education districts.
These areas have been identified by the Eastern Cape Education department as high poverty areas with escalating Infection rates of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and learner pregnancy, Drug and Alcohol abuse as well as other social and health barriers among young Women and Girls that impede these learners from finishing their high schools.
Due to the lack of Resources to target these issues from the department to cover all areas, the Department of Basic Education has intervened through the Global Funding which led to the appointed of Kheth’mpilo as Implementing Agent for the Young Women and Girls Project. Primarily, their aim is to assist with Intervention Programmes in Alfonso Arries as one of the schools in the Nelson Mandela Area that has been identified for the intervention.
Through the Kheth’Impilo partnership programme the following were agreed upon and done:
Learner Support Agents were appointed to assist learners with Social and Health Issues;
Qualified Nursing Staff through this programme has been appointed to deal with Health related illnesses as per Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP);
Social Workers have been appointed to deal with referrals of learned especially social behaviour challenges;
The Integrated Schools Health Policy (ISHP) document is the guiding document in implementation of the Health programmes in our school. Accordingly, this pilicy provides guidelines for schools to inform parents on the integrated schools health programme. The following is stated in paragraphs 4.12 � 4.14
How is HIV testing provided to learners in schools?
The DBE participates actively in the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) and contributes to the activities of SANAC, including the development of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV and AIDS, TB and STIs. The DBE also developed its own Integrated Strategy on HIV, STIs and TB 2012�2016, which was aligned to the 2012�2016 NSP, as well as its National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB, 2017, and supports the call by the President for every South African to know their HIV status. In order for learners to receive HIV testing at their school, it is essential that:
The parents of that school are actively consulted;
Active parental consent and learner assent (12 years and older) are sought; from the age of 12, learners can also consent;
Human and infrastructure resources are available to maintain privacy and confidentiality;
Ongoing psychosocial support is available; and
HIV testing and counselling (HCT) services are offered by a trained professional in a private consultation.
In addition to the above, learners also can access HCT services from any health facility. The challenge is to make the services accessible, youth-friendly and acceptable to young people.
What happens if a parent, guardian or caregiver declines the provision of SRH services to his/her child? SRH services, including the whole ISHP package, are not compulsory. All participation is voluntary. Parents and learners have the right to refuse participation in such services. Active parental consent is sought, as well as learner assent for those 12 years and older, as per the Children’s Act, 2005.
If a parent, guardian or caregiver does not want his/her child to receive the service, he/she may say so on the consent form. Parents, guardians or caregivers are encouraged to support the programme but have the right to decline services for children under the age of 12.
What are the benefits of the ISPH and SRH health services?
The promotion of good health amongst learners may contribute to the attainment of better grades in school.
Learners feel free to access sexual and reproductive health services and exercise personal choice in decisions guided by friendly, non-judgmental and empathetic nurses.
Learner pregnancy and dropout are reduced.
Learners show more assertiveness when it comes to decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health.
The involvement of male learners educates boys from a young age to take responsibility when engaging in sexual activity.
Gender stereotyping may be reduced amongst learners.
Learners are encouraged to take active responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.
A Departmental Indaba was held in March this year where a declaration was made giving more guidance and direction on the implementation of the DBE NATIONAL POLICY on HIV, STI and TB for learners, educators including the support staff and officials. Amongst the declaration made was that:
Partners were urged to wait for the Department to give guidance on how and when to deliver testing and treatment services to schools and;
The department assures the public that an investigation is underway on this matter and anyone found to have breached the terms and conditions for operating in our schools will face the wrath of the law. Despite this, the department commits to openness and accountability to parents and the public on all issues related to learner support of any form.
Source: Government of South Africa