March 31, 2010
The AIDS Care Trust (ACT) offers an after-school program for primary school students infected or affected by HIV in the Windhoek area. The outreach began with 45 children in 2008 and is on track to have 300 enrollees by the end of 2010.
The program offers services like life-skills classes, counseling sessions, and even money to pay for school-related fees. For most children it provides the only opportunity to complete their school work.
"Most parents who are infected with HIV are too sick to support their children any longer. They don't encourage them to do well in school, often they don't have money to buy books, uniforms or even food," said supervisor Frans Sakaria. "For children who are HIV-positive, school can be a hard place because the teachers are not sensitive to their situation, they don't watch their language."
"AIDS is very broad and complicated and we don't want to confuse the kids, nor single out those that are infected," said Katrina Jones, who teaches the life-skills class. "But we do teach them the importance of keeping clean, doing their homework, exercising, and abstaining from alcohol. On a one-on-one basis we provide counseling. Many children struggle with questions around the disease and few get answers at home."
Operating the program is a challenge, since it receives no support from the health ministry or the municipality. "We used to cook the children's lunch on the ministry's premises, but they don't want to pay for the electricity anymore. So we have to go cook in someone's house now," said Tuisnerde Jonathan, nutritional manager for ACT.