After a slow start, Kenya has made great strides in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Since the discovery of the first AIDS case there has been investment in a variety of interventions including treatment, management, care and support. A need for a clear policy to support the various interventions was felt soon after the government of Kenya declared HIV/AIDS as a national disaster in 1999. In 2000 the government put in place a comprehensive multi-sectoral strategy to guide the various stakeholders in their participation in the war against the disease. Notably, Kenya is one of the few African countries to register a sustained decline in the HIV/AIDS infection rate (from a high of 10% in the '90s to 7% in 2003) as a result of the large investment in various interventions against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Drawing from the national HIV/AIDS strategy, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has taken the initiative to prepare for implementing a Ministry-specific HIV/AIDS policy. The MoE has also put in place a sector wide support programme through which to implement all its education programmes: the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme (KESSP). HIV/AIDS is one of the major multi-sectoral programmes that will be supported and implemented through the KESSP. The KESSP has adopted the Primary School Action for Better Health (PSABH) programme as a model for the implementation of HIV/AIDS programmes in schools in Kenya. PSABH is an HIV/AIDS education awareness and prevention project funded by DFID and managed by the British education services company CfBT.
The specific purposes of this ODI-Merck study were:
- To compare the Kenyan experience of working within existing government systems to achieve behaviour change in the area of HIV/AIDS with that of other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa
- To gather information from key stakeholders in Kenya on the formulation and implementation, structures, mechanisms and processes of the Kenya Education Sector HIV/AIDS Policy
- To comment upon the process of formulating and disseminating the policy
- To prepare evidence from the successful implementation of PSABH, in response to the findings of a RAPID assessment, in order to support the MoE to better lead the scaling out of HIV/AIDS activities under the KESSP and to work in conjunction with other Ministries in cross-cutting areas.
Drawing from the experience of the implementation of PSABH by CfBT there is research evidence to support the view that large-scale school-based education programmes can bring about behaviour changes that reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS infection amongst youth. The findings therefore suggest that the Ministry of Education should put in place a strong system that flows smoothly from the national, provincial, district, zonal, village and school levels for distribution, dissemination, interpretation, implementation, AND monitoring and evaluation of the HIV/AIDS policy and school-based education activities. In order to put this comprehensive system in place the Ministry of Education should involve key stakeholders and partners in the process, facilitating a dialogue with them in order to identify the best way forward for the enhancement of the policy and associated programmes to cater for all key stakeholders - pupils, teachers, parents, headteachers, the community, employers and employees in the education sector and partner ministries, departments and institutions.
The dialogue should involve identification, access and sharing of resources among the key implementers of the policy and the interventions drawn from it. It should involve discussions on collaboration and partnerships. It should lead to self-evaluation, peer evaluation and collaborative evaluation. Under the leadership of the MoE, the stakeholders should determine what resources are available for effective implementation of the HIV/AIDS policy and related interventions, what needs to be strengthened, and what structures need to be put in place. The stakeholders will variously contribute information, knowledge and technical support. There should be a national steering and coordinating committee appointed for the task. The Ministry has both the mandate and the responsibility to take the lead in facilitating the interpretation and effective implementation of the Education Sector HIV/AIDS policy and associated education activities. And the need is urgent.