African girl. Copyright Justyna Furmanczyk  

Strengthening open and flexible learning for increased education access in high HIV prevalence SADC countries


SOFIE Opening Up Access Series

Five review papers have been prepared within the initial work programme of SOFIE. The purpose of the review papers is to provide state of the art reviews on what is already known about the way in which HIV and AIDS can impact on educational access for affected children and young people in sub-Saharan Africa and on what efforts are currently being made to increase access especially in Malawi and Lesotho. Current ODFL initiatives are identified and ODFL is considered as a policy option in the Region.

SOFIE Opening Up Access Series no 1

Access to conventional schooling for children and young people affected by HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa: A cross-national review of recent research evidence. Dr. Pat Pridmore

This paper examines the evidence on access to conventional schooling for children and young people affected by HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and makes recommendations for the further development of the SOFIE Project. The findings reveal the highly complex and context specific nature of the educational impact. In some areas broad adaptive capacities are emerging that may enable households to support a larger number of orphans whilst in other areas households are reaching the limits of their capacity to cope. In HIV-stressed households children have reduced educational access and attainment and maternal orphans are a particularly disadvantaged group in terms of schooling, even relative to other poor children. At the same time schools in high HIV prevalence areas are increasingly challenged to meet the educational and emotional needs of the children who walk in through their door and are unlikely to reach out to the young people who cannot attend regularly. 
The findings imply that there is a need for educational reform to move away from the ‘one size fits all’ view of conventional schooling and to think creatively, ‘out of the box’ to develop alternative, more open and flexible, models of educational delivery and support. It is argued that such models could play a useful role in facilitating educational reform by sharing the burden faced by schools and helping to integrate responses to learners' needs more effectively and suggestions for alternative models are put forward. The review concludes that, given the highly variable and context specific nature of the educational impact of HIV and AIDS, detailed case studies and well evaluated interventions are needed in specific social and cultural contexts to inform effective policy recommendations and practice.

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SOFIE Opening Up Access Series no2

Review of interventions used in different contexts to enhance access to
and attainment. Ephraim Mhlanga

This paper is a critical review of interventions that are used in different developing contexts to enhance educational access and attainment. The paper was informed by data and information gathered through a multi-method approach. The approach involved reviewing of research-based publications from leading organisations like IIEP (UNESCO), UNAIDS, UNICEF, and Save the Children (UK). Journal articles and research reports mostly based on experiences in African countries were also reviewed. Semi-structured, face-to-face and telephonic interviews as well as informal discussions were also held with key informants from various organisations that deal with HIV/AIDS issues in the Southern African region. Using these sources of information, a mixture of educational interventions implemented in different countries was identified and these are reported under four main categories in this paper; interventions that aim to increase access by subsidising school costs, interventions that make educational provision flexible, interventions that aim at increasing access through community mobilization, and interventions that try to increase access and attainment by improving the quality of educational provision. The review showed that these interventions were implemented differently and with varying levels of success in different contexts. Whilst there are many interventions that aim at reducing the cost of education, very few pay particular attention to addressing the quality of educational provision. With the exception of a few examples in South Africa and in Namibia, there is hardly any use of ICTs in enhancing access and improving the quality of education, an important aspect worth pursuing through the current project. Drawing from Coleman’s theory of social capital as an analytical tool, the paper concludes that effective innovations are those that are premised on sound school-community linkages and integration. Such integration facilitates ownership and support of school innovations by the community.

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SOFIE Opening Up Access Series no3

Education and HIV and AIDS in Malawi: The role of open, distance and flexible learning. Natalia Streuli and Catherine Moleni

In a context in which HIV and AIDS is affecting many lives around the globe, education has been described as the most effective ‘social vaccine’ against this pandemic. Getting every child into school seems to be essential to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS. However, worldwide evidence suggests that HIV and AIDS have swamped education sectors with a range of challenges, especially in countries were education sectors were already weak. As a result, many children are not accessing education or are leaving school before achieving basic literacy and numeracy skills. This paper is one of the background documents developed as part of SOFIE research project funded by the Joint DFID-ESRC Scheme that explores the potential role of open, distance and flexible learning (ODFL) as a complement to conventional schooling in Malawi and Lesotho to overcome the barriers to education presented by HIV and AIDS. Drawing mostly on secondary data, the analysis of documents, reports and academic articles, as well as on primary data from interviews and discussions with key informants in Malawi, this paper reviews the way in which the education sector in Malawi is responding to support students’ access to education and achievement in the context of the AIDS epidemic. It also identifies and analyses key ODFL initiatives and structures used to address challenges in the education system. Available research evidence suggests that ODFL should be supported alongside conventional schooling because it has the potential to alleviate the huge demands that the system is facing. The evidence also recommends the design of inclusive programmes that reach out to all vulnerable children, not only orphans, and particularly those from the lowest socio-economic quintiles. Some good practices are discussed.

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SOFIE Opening Up Access Series no4

The use of Open, Distance and Flexible Learning (ODFL) initiatives to open up access to education in the context of high HIV and AIDS prevalence rates: the case of Lesotho. Dr Thabiso Nyabanyaba

This paper describes the extent of the national HIV and AIDS epidemic in Lesotho and identifies and analyses key Open, Distance and Flexible Learning (ODFL) initiatives currently being implemented to increase access to education including those for vulnerable young people including those affected by HIV and AIDS. The paper draws on documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews conducted with stakeholders from government departments and non-governmental organisations involved in HIV and AIDS and in the Non-Formal Education Sector.
Despite the high priority attached to education and a national response to HIV and AIDS by the Lesotho Government, a key finding of the analysis is the extent of the challenges presented by the HIV pandemic and of the internal inefficiencies within the education system, leading to high drop out rates, high repetition rates and low completion rates. Several initiatives in the non-formal education sector and those drawing on ODFL are described for their possibilities to open up access to education and address the growing HIV and AIDS pandemic.
In conclusion, the paper argues for the possibilities of ODFL to improve efficiency rates in Lesotho and open up access to out-of-school youths, thus taking up the opportunity for the window of hope!

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SOFIE Opening Up Access Series no5

Keeping children in school: A review of open education policies in Lesotho and Malawi.
Chris Yates

This paper looks at the situation of out of school children in Lesotho and Malawi in the context of HIV/AIDS and the role that open and distance and flexible learning might come to play in the future. It provides a brief consideration of scale of exclusion, before moving on to look at some of the recent history of theories of inclusion and exclusion. The paper then provides a review of government policies in Lesotho and Malawi with respect to improving access to, and equity through, education for out of school youth particularly in the areas of non formal education, information and communication technologies, and HIV/AIDS. The paper concludes by reflecting on what the review points to, in relation to some of the questions being posed by the research project.

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