New Bank report calls for ‘education vaccine'

 

                            New Bank report calls for ‘education vaccine'

 

                            May 8, 2002—HIV/AIDS kills teachers faster than they can be

                            trained, makes orphans of students, and threatens to derail

                            efforts by highly-infected countries to get all boys and girls into

                            primary school by 2015, a new World Bank report, launched

                            yesterday, warns. And yet a good basic education ranks among

                            the most effective, and cost-effective means of preventing HIV.

 

                            According to the report, Education and HIV/AIDS: A Window of

                            Hope, countries need to urgently strengthen their education

                            systems. Education offers a window of hope unlike any other for

                            countries, communities, and families to escape the deadly grip of

                            HIV/AIDS. Vigorous pursuit of the Education for All goals is

                            imperative, along with education aimed at HIV prevention.

                            Education systems that promote a nation's future are being

                            gravely threatened by the epidemic, particularly in areas of high

                            or rising HIV prevalence.

 

                            World Bank President, James D. Wolfensohn, writing in a

                            foreword to the report, says that the World Bank is a committed

                            partner along with developing countries, UN agencies, aid donors

                            and others in the global effort to provide every child with access

                            to a basic education, but adds that the task of achieving EFA in

                            countries afflicted by HIV/AIDS is extremely difficult:

 

                            "With more than 113 million children not in school in the poorest

                            countries, this already presents a major challenge. However,

                            HIV/AIDS makes this much greater in those countries where the

                            education system was already struggling to grow, teachers are

                            dying, or are too sick to teach. And every year more children are

                            losing their parents and the support that allows them to go to

                            school. Achieving Education for All in a world of AIDS presents

                            an unprecedented challenge to the world education community."

 

                            AIDS destroys

 

                            The scale of the AIDS epidemic is enormous. UNAIDS estimates

                            that by the end of 2001, over 40 million people were living with

                            HIV/AIDS, 17.6 million of them adult women, and 2.7 million

                            children under 15 years. About 5 million people were newly

                            infected in 2001 alone—roughly the same as in 1999. AIDS

                            orphans and other vulnerable children now number some 15.6

                            million, following nearly 25 million AIDS deaths by the end of

                            2001.

 

                            The epidemic's grip on Africa has been by far the deadliest, but

                            no part of the world is immune. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the

                            epicenter: Average life expectancy has now fallen to 47 years

                            (compared with an estimated 62 without AIDS), and its

                            prevalence rates are the world's highest—above 10 percent in 16

                            countries and as high as 44 percent in some groups (pregnant

                            women in urban Botswana). Globally, the epidemic is on the

                            upswing, spreading fastest in Eastern Europe: New infections in

                            the Russian Federation appear to be almost doubling annually

                            since 1998. Data from Asia too warn against complacency:

                            National prevalence rates are low but mask localized epidemics,

                            and infection rates in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Thailand are in

                            the 2-4 percent range and similar to many West African

                            countries, while India is second only to South Africa in the

                            number of people currently infected.

 

                            The epidemic has a profound impact on growth and poverty.

                            UNAIDS estimates a loss of more than 20 percent of GDP by

                            2020 in the worst-affected countries and a rapid increase in the

                            number of destitute families, faced with lower income, more

                            dependents, and sharply higher health care expenditures.

                            Already weak private sectors are crumbling further, as companies

                            face higher costs from training, insurance, benefits, and

                            absenteeism.

 

                            AIDS and education

 

                            Most devastating and far-reaching, perhaps, is the epidemic's

                            impact on education systems. Half of the world's 15,000 new

                            infections every day occur among 15- to 24-year-olds (1999). The

                            epidemic's ravages are well under way in Africa's worst-affected

                            countries, which face high teacher prevalence rates (30 percent

                            in Malawi), a burgeoning of the orphan and out-of-school

                            population and a widening gender gap in education. Already more

                            vulnerable than boys to HIV infection, girls are also more

                            vulnerable to dropping out of school, being more often retained at

                            home to care for sick relatives or assume other domestic duties.

 

                            The full scope of the epidemic's impact on education can be seen

                            in the context of the formidable challenges already confronting

                            the sector. More than 113 million children, aged 6 to 12, are out

                            of school in developing countries, two-thirds of them girls. Of

                            those who enter school, one out of four drops out before attaining

                            literacy. Even without reflecting the epidemic's impact, at least

                            55 of the poorest countries seem unlikely to achieve universal

                            primary enrollment by 2015; 28 of these countries are also

                            among the 45 worst affected by HIV/AIDS. With AIDS, several of

                            the worst-hit countries (such as South Africa and Botswana) are

                            seeing a reversal of hard-won educational gains, while countries

                            already struggling to achieve EFA goals are being further set

                            back. Attaining the goals is an even dimmer prospect when EFA

                            is defined to encompass completion of the primary

                            cycle—essential for true learning. A total of 88 countries are

                            estimated to be at risk of not attaining universal primary

                            completion by 2015. The goal of eliminating gender disparities in

                            primary and secondary education by 2005 poses an even greater

                            challenge, given that the date is fast approaching, as well as the

                            greater likelihood of girls dropping out of school because of

                            HIV/AIDS in their immediate families.

 

                            "The time for business as usual is past; no country can afford not

                            to act. Worst-affected countries need to arrest the epidemic's

                            ravages and protect future generations—Uganda and Thailand

                            have shown this to be possible," says Don Bundy, lead author of

                            Education and HIV/AIDS: A Window of Hope and a World Bank

                            specialist on school health. "Low-prevalence countries need to

                            recognize the speed with which complacency can lead to crisis

                            and, equally, the tremendous opportunity for saving of lives and

                            financial resources through prevention. For all countries, two

                            mutually reinforcing objectives are paramount: prevention of HIV

                            and protection and sustenance of the education sector."

 

                            Useful links:Click here to read the press release. Click here to

                            read the transcript of the press conference. Click here for more

                            on the Bank's work in education and here for more on the Bank's

                            work in the area of HIV/AIDS.