AIDS Youth Education Initiative a Finalist at 2009 Commonwealth Education Awards

September 14, 2009


Washington, D.C. ––  The Government of Uganda’s Presidential Initiative on AIDS Strategy for Communication to Youth (PIASCY) was one of  nine finalists in 2009 for the prestigious Commonwealth Education Good Practice Awards.  Forty-nine projects were considered. The Ugandan Presidential Initiative mitigates the impact of AIDS among Ugandan youth by teaching them about the basic facts of AIDS and strategies for prevention.

Uganda was an early epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. As a finalist for the Commonwealth Awards, PIASCY has demonstrated its relevance to reducing the prevalence of AIDS which at its peak affected nearly 30 percent of Uganda’s population in urban areas.

Over 50 percent of Ugandans are under eighteen. PIASCY’s interventions focus on preventative education to empower young Ugandans to avoid risky behavior.  In fact, the initiative’s largest targeted audience is primary school children who make-up 7.5 million of the country’s school-going population. At PIASCY’s launch, Uganda’s primary schools contained 80 percent of children orphaned by AIDS totaling more than 1.5 million pupils.  Focusing PIASCY efforts on school children has had a ripple effect as pupils take messages home to their parents and older siblings.

The Commonwealth’s recognition of Uganda’s success is also a testament to nearly two decades of assistance to the country by U.S. Agency for International Development.  The Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports is currently implementing the Initiative for Teacher Development and Management System (UNITY) funded by USAID.  Supporting the PIASCY is a pillar of this three year USAID project being implemented by Creative Associates International, Inc. Creative was also USAID’s partner in laying the groundwork for PIASCY beginning in 2003 under the Basic Education Support Program.

The UNITY project is strengthening Uganda’s education sector through professional development and expanding PIASCY’s country-wide reach.  Nearly 15,000 teachers have been trained to teach their students about HIV/AIDS to help overcome   cultural barriers in Uganda to discussing such personal matters with children. Another 7,500 teachers have been trained as counselors to reduce the stigma and discrimination for those battling the illness.

UNITY in particular supports Uganda’s efforts to reach out to conflict-affected north and northeastern regions of the country. Creative’s Chief of Party for Uganda, Renuka Pillay, said, “Uganda’s PIASCY has shown measurable impact. As the Commonwealth recognition attests, it is effective and has great potential to be replicated.”

As Uganda has 28 ethnic groups, PIASCY seeks to be effective country-wide by making educational materials as well as radio and television messages  in various languages. More than 3,000 Model Schools have been established as ‘epicenters’ to spread messages of good practices for mitigating HIV/AIDS infection to non-model schools.

The Commonwealth Awards highlight good practices in education throughout the 53-nation  Commonwealth of independent states according to six action areas: achieving universal primary education; eliminating gender disparities in education; improving quality in education; using distance learning to overcome barriers; supporting education in difficult circumstances; and, diminishing the impact of AIDS on education systems such as the PIASCY project.

The Commonwealth is a unique association which comprises countries from all major continents of the world, rich and poor, small and large, consulting and co-operating in the common interests of their peoples, estimated at nearly two billion and with half of this population under 25.  Ministers of education proposed the awards for good and promising practices in education across the Commonwealth in 2003 and the first Good Practice Awards were launched in 2005.  This year’s first prize awards were conferred on two school projects in Malaysia on June 25th held in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

—Alexandra Pratt

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