Articles

The support needs of South African educators affected by HIV and AIDS

Published in: African Journal of AIDS Research
Volume 8, issue 2, 2009 , pages: 231–242
DOI: 10.2989/AJAR.2009.8.2.11.863
Author(s): Linda TheronSchool of Education Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, South Africa

Abstract

In a qualitative study of 77 South African educators, participants were asked to explain how they are affected by HIV and AIDS and how they would best like to be supported in response to this. The term ‘affected’ refers to educators who have colleagues, learners or loved ones who are HIV-positive or who have died from HIV-related illnesses, or those who teach children orphaned by AIDS or learners who are vulnerable because of a parent's or caregiver's HIV status. Their responses endorse current theory regarding support for educators in the context of the epidemic, but their needs for support also include forms of ‘ecosystemic compassion’: that is, a longing for the school management, learners' parents, learners, and colleagues to have compassion for their HIV-related predicaments. Because the latter need was pronounced among those educators caring for an ill HIV-positive loved one, this study introduces the importance of researchers' and stakeholders' sensitivity to the possibility of differentiated support, according to how educators are affected by HIV. Many of the participants' calls for support were at odds with policyfacilitated demands on educators to function as pillars of support to vulnerable learners and communities in the age of HIV and AIDS. The findings provide a caveat with regard to educators who require support—notwithstanding the expectation that they function as ecosystemic agents of support. Finally, the educators' calls for support should be tempered by resilience theory, which suggests that while it is important to support HIV-affected educators, the choice of supports should not stymie educators' agency or discourage educators' active participation in the support process.

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