07
Aug
2018

As South Africa marks National Women’s Day on 9 August, Mamelodi’s Tshwane North College held an Imbizo dedicated to strengthening the response to rape and gender-based violence (GBV) that happen at education institutions and in communities where students and staff come from.

 The Deputy Minister of Higher Education began the Imbizo by asking for a moment of silence for Khensani Maseko. “This terrible tragedy outlines that this is now a crisis, a two-fold crisis. On the one hand, the persistence of unrelenting incidents of GBV on our campuses and on the other, a dire need for psycho-social support for survivors of GBV. Mental illness should be tackled in the same breath as GBV, as one causes the other.”

Today’s Imbizo is part of a national movement to amplify conversations about the safety of students in institutions of higher learning. It is driven by the Higher Education and Training Health Wellness and Development Centre (HEAIDS), the implementing agency under the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), 26 universities and 50 TVET colleges which are part of the public post-schooling sector, as well as UN Women and other partners.

During his engagement with students and staff at the college, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, said: “GBV is a violation of dignity and rights which compromises women’s health, wellbeing and educational performance and outcomes.

 “Imbizos like the one we are having today provide the platform for sharing information and interrogating complex issues that will allow us to understand the root cause of gender-based and sexual violence. We are determined to learn from these discussions in order for us to bring about a sector-wide strategy which we can align with national legislation, both within and outside of the higher education and training system,” said the Deputy Minister.

 He pointed out that imminently, a comprehensive GBV policy framework will be issued for public comment, after a year of research and consultations with the education institutions, experts working in the field and other relevant parties. He explained that when finalised, HEAIDS will act as the implementing agency of the Department, leading the roll-out of the policy framework across the sector.

 “South African women have played an integral and rich role in the positive transformation in the country. We celebrate the National Women’s Day. But, as too many chilling headlines and personal testimonies remind us – we have a long way to go to ensure a truly transformed South Africa where women and men stand equal, and where boys grow up basing their behaviour towards girls, sisters, mothers and other women on positive role models. The Policy Framework was developed on this premise.

“We call on every student and staff member within our sector to be part of this real transformation. We can do that by respecting girls’ and women’s dignity and rights every single day,” says Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of HEAIDS.

He further stated that Higher Education Policy Framework will have a comprehensive implementation plan that will include:

  • Peer-to-peer education and campus-based activations and dialogues to serve both for preventative and emergency-management purposes.
  • National sector wide Prevention Campaign, focussing on education and awareness
  • Psychosocial and medical support for survivors.
  • In- and out-of-classroom training as well as capacity development for staff.
  • A safety audit across campuses to inform further measures to improve safety.

 Ms Mulalo Mutheiwana, a Masters student from Vaal University of Technology, said to her peers and leaders attending the Imbizo: “I am not victim – I am a survivor of my own story. Attempting suicide is not weak, Khensani was not weak, she was drained by the world not doing anything about abuse.”

Initiating discussions like these and involving people who are at risk or have survived a traumatic experience are precursors to further steps to protect students and staff, improve access to services and care and intensify meaningful legal responses to these violations.

27
Jul
2018

MANGOSUTHU UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY PEER EDUCATION TRAINING

Programme Coordinator for the Universities, Veronica Mgwathi, held a peer Education Training Workshop at Mangosuthu University of Technology with staff and students.

The main aim of the training was to capacitate students and staff in order to support health promotion, social justice, good citizenship, leadership and sharing of health information, values and behaviors through peer to peer education. The training also informed participants about HEAIDS programmes and the supportive role they can play.

Presented in an interactive manner to get the students to fully participate; the training also embodied HEAIDS perspective that the Higher Education & Training sector can transform South Africa. This perspective suggests that Peer to Peer engagements within campuses is an effective method as these institutions are often seen as role models within their communities.

20
Jul
2018

HEAIDS in cooperation with the Department of Higher Education and Training and Coastal College in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal today hosted an Imbizo dedicated to igniting a response to rape and gender-based violence (GBV) that happens at provincial campuses and within the community where students and staff come from.

The tertiary sector considers rape and GBV as a major and cross-cutting social, health and academic challenge. Latest reports indicate that about a tenth of the incidents of rape in the country happen within the higher education and training sector.

Taking a stance against GBV, sexual harassment and rape in particular is a priority for the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre (HEAIDS) and the 26 universities and 50 TVET colleges which are part of the public post schooling sector. This initiative is supported by a variety of partners and stakeholders including UN Women and the Department of Women.

During his engagement with students and staff at the Coastal College, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, said:  

“Violations cause physical and psychological harms for the survivor. Apart from the trauma to the individual, this affects educational outcomes – effectively eroding the investments made into educating young South Africans and equipping them with skills to enter the job market.”

The Deputy Minister repeated the call to action he issued during the Department’s budget vote in May: “We have to confront the reality of violence against women on campuses. Violence against women is a problem that must be rooted out within higher education and training. It is also a societal problem that calls all of us to act together. Our quest is to make our campuses safer.”

HEAIDS is leading the sector’s activities to shine a spotlight on GBV. Initiating discussion and involving people who are at risk or have survived a traumatic experience are precursors to further steps to protect students and staff, improve access to services and care and mount meaningful legal responses to these violations. .

“We are here to spur conversations about a hard topic that has for too long been kept behind closed doors. It is positive that reports of incidents of GBV are happening more frequently even if in the short-term it gives the impression that violence is on the rise. It signifies that tolerance is declining and that time is running out for perpetrators. They will be seen and they will have to account for their unacceptable behaviour,” said Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, the CEO of HEAIDS.

‘’As HEAIDS on behalf of Department of Higher Education and Training, we are developing a comprehensive integrated GBV program within the higher education sector.  The program will comprise of peer-to-peer education, dialogues, psychosocial support for survivors, in and out of classroom training as well as capacity development for staff. We are also aiming to establish a safety audit on all campuses to ensure effective preventative measures are implemented’’-added Dr Ahluwalia.

Njabulo Mncwabe a MA student at University of KwaZulu-Natal spoke for many of her peers. “We have had enough of people who should be leaders and people in authority turning a blind eye to the violation of our human rights and safety. We want our campuses to be places of learning, friendship, innovation and progress – not grievous harm to our bodies and spirits.

“I am making it my mission to have the means to protect myself and to know where the nearest point of help is should I need it. I want every one of my girlfriends to do the same – and we want our boyfriends and lecturers to help us in this. I am thankful for today’s Imbizo, it tells us that the college and government are taking our problem seriously and helping us do something about it.”

Coastal College was recognised for other ways in which it is advancing gender equality, including its new facility that manufactures low-cost quality sanitary towels for girls in the community. Lack of access to hygienic and affordable pads to wear during menstrual periods exposes girls from under-resourced communities to health risks and for many, it means monthly absences from school. This project will help girls attend school without interruption, giving them a sense of dignity, protecting their health and enabling them to achieve better school outcomes. Deputy Minister Manamela will be visiting the college’s Hammarsdale campus tomorrow, 6 June 2018, to learn more about the production of low-cost sanitary towels.

20
Jul
2018


In a series of workshops, the Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre trained 425 Life Orientation (LO) lecturers from TVET colleges across the country in the area of HIV Prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights and strengthened assessments with regards to these issues. Of the 425 trained LO lecturers, 150 were identified as outstanding champions in the field of teaching Life Orientation, as they successfully incorporated their training into their classrooms and shared their knowledge with other TVET college lecturers from their institutions.

Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, addressed these lecturers on Thursday, 19 July 2018, at the Southern Sun Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport and awarded them with certificates for their outstanding achievements. In his address to the Life Orientation lecturers the Deputy Minister highlighted the fact that “skills development remains the core mandate of the Department of Higher Education and Training”. Responding to the problem that the subjects of Life Orientation is often undervalued, he also reassured  the lecturers that government takes the subject of Life Orientation very seriously and that it is important that “our learners also realise that Life Orientation is as important as maths and other subjects”.

Aruna Singh, DHET Chief Director: Programmes and Qualifications, said that attending the HEAIDS workshops was a phenomenal experience: “When our lecturers left the training sessions, they were equipped to step into the classrooms the very next day and be comfortable to teach on issues of sexual health. The results were beyond of what I had expected. I would like to commend that”.

Two colleges were asked to share their lessons learned as part of the HEAIDS TVET Life Orientation programme. Lecturers from Capricorn TVET college in Limpopo highlighted that “without HEAIDS the Life Orientation curriculum” would be incomplete, while lecturers from Majuba College did not shy away from coming up with their own “Life Orientation rap” to teach their students about the principles of safer sex.

HEAIDS Technical Advisor in the CEO’s Office Ms Managa Pillay closed the event by highlighting the  commitment of the Life Orientation lecturers to the capacity building process and thanked the group for their hard work, commitment and passion: “Life Orientation Lecturers are notoriously undervalued in their institutions – the subject is not seen as a priority, which is very unfortunate given that  Life Orientation lecturers empower their students to take care of their physical and mental well-being and support them with important life skills and tools to become agents of change within their communities.”

She further expressed a commitment to continuing this work to ensure that Life Orientation is afforded the value that it deserves.

02
Jun
2018

To access the HEAIDS Conference Programme click HERE

13
May
2018

Be part of the HEAIDS Youth Conference 2017 – register HERE !

26
Apr
2018

On Thursday 26 April 2018, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, addressed students at the official launch of 16 new on-site health clinics at 16 TVET colleges campuses in Limpopo. The announcement was met with applause during the Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre’s (HEAIDS) ‘First Things First’ provincial activation at Capricorn TVET college.

These new clinics are a direct result of MEC for Health in Limpopo, Dr. Phophi Ramathuba, responding to the need in the area. The clinics are staffed by nurses from Monday to Friday and provide on-site testing and screening for HIV, TB and STIs, and offers family planning to college students and staff. The sites have been strategically positioned in areas where there is limited access to other healthcare services. “Students who come from impoverished backgrounds often do not have access to, or knowledge of how to access primary healthcare. We need to advocate and help students realise that they need to make looking after their health a priority,” said Manamela,

A recent study indicates that youths in Limpopo between the ages of 15 and 24, have one of the highest incidence of early sexual debuts in the country*. Early sexual debut increases an individual’s risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

 “Our experience shows that it takes a combination of permanent and mobile interventions to combat the spread of HIV, TB and STIs,” said Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of HEAIDS. “By providing routine access to basic essential services to our students, we are moving closer to our target of reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In 2017, we provided HIV testing and counselling to more than 200 000 students in universities and TVET colleges across South Africa through our First Things First Programme.” he concludes.

“The approach seems to be working, our clinics have exceeded all footfall targets since they opened their doors. We hope this best practice model can be replicated in other provinces and continue to make a difference in young South African lives.  This is another step in our journey towards an HIV-free country,” Manamela concludes.

25
Apr
2018

Today, at Boland College, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mr Mduduzi Manana, launched the 2017 First Things First campaign in the Western Cape. The campaign brings HIV testing, counselling and education directly to students on campuses, as well as provides screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and Tuberculosis (TB).

“The future prosperity of our country depends on the students in our higher education institutions. They are our future leaders. It is critical that we equip them with the knowledge and skills to remain HIV negative and healthy,” said Deputy Minister Manana. “First Things First has enjoyed great success in this area and I am pleased to be launching its 2017 campaign,” he continued.

First Things First is an initiative by the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS). Now in its seventh year, First Things First has tested nearly 500 000 students for HIV and screened a similar number for TB and STIs.

“In 2016 alone we provided testing and counselling for more than 160 000 students throughout South Africa’s 429 higher education campuses,” said Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, Director of HEAIDS. “Our vision is to have zero new HIV and TB infections in our higher education institutions. First Things First forms a key part of that vision.”

Dr Ahluwalia highlighted the importance of extending testing services to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. “TVET colleges often lack adequate facilities and resources for testing and counselling students,” he explained.

A study of TVET colleges in 2014 found that more than a quarter of students surveyed only used condoms if requested to do so by their sexual partners. More than a third of students felt that they could not ask their partners to get tested for STIs without being accused of infidelity.*

Given that women aged 15 to 24 are nearly twice as likely to become infected with HIV, compared to any other age and gender group, changing norms around testing is vital to reducing  the spread of the pandemic.**

In addition to HIV, STI and TB services, First Things First offers screening, treatment and support for a wide range of general health issues including hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular health and cancer. The campaign also provides family planning, dual contraception, reproductive- and maternal health services to students in need.

“The data shows us that a holistic approach to HIV prevention is far more effective than addressing any single factor alone,” said Dr Ahluwalia. “This is why we are committed to reaching all two million young people in our higher education institutions with First Things First,” he continued.

“The First Things First programme reminds us that we have one responsibility above all others – to look after ourselves,” said Deputy Minister Manana. “The higher education and training sector is in a unique position to lead a movement against HIV and to create champions who can carry the message into their communities. Together, we can defeat the HIV pandemic,” he concluded.

* HIV and AIDS related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of students and staff at South African Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges in South Africa, 2014, HEAIDS http://www.hsrc.ac.za/uploads/pageNews/262/43227%20KAB%20Full%20Report.pdf

** South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey, 2012, HSRC  http://www.hsrc.ac.za/uploads/pageContent/4565/SABSSM%20IV%20LEO%20final.pdf

21
Apr
2018

As country steering committee member for the development of the NSP, Dr Ahluwalia is committed to the success of the plan but states that the new NSP cannot be implemented through a “top down” approach.

Family Interventions

“Instead, we need to begin at the micro level, with individual families,” Dr Ahluwalia stated. A recent study of family-level interventions, published in AIDS Care, found that participants were ‘highly motivated’ and receptive to these interventions.*

“By creating HIV prevention champions within families, we can achieve a far more radical reduction in infection rates. People aremuch more likely to be receptive to conversations about private topics like sex and health with family members than with strangers,” he continued.

Dr Ahluwalia poses that the most efficient and effective way to reach millions of households is to empower the students in higher education institutions. “Students are the most suitable candidates to bring about this change as they are well educated, motivated and articulate. These students are usually the only ones in their extended family able to attend such an institution, and their relatives often rely on them for financial support once they graduate and begin earning a salary,” he says.

‘Black tax’

In 2015, a Mail & Guardian report found that young black professionals often support as many as 14 relatives with their salary.** This phenomenon, known as ‘black tax’, is usually viewed in a negative light, but it puts these young people in an unusual position of influence within their extended families.

“As the main breadwinner for a family, they can exert more influence over family affairs than their age might normally imply. If we make these young people the champions against HIV, they become a lever that can shift the direction of our entire country,” says Dr Ahluwalia.

“I am often asked about the prevalence of HIV at our tertiary institutions, which is lower than the general national HIV prevalence, and I always reply that we cannot afford to lose even one of these students. A student that contracts HIV and dies before the age of 30 leaves their family without a primary breadwinner. If we do not empower our students, we risk condemning their families to another generation of poverty,” he says.

Peer education programmes

Dr Ahluwalia states that the most effective way to recruit and train anti-HIV champions is to use a peer education approach. An extensive review of published studies by Advocates For Youth found that it is “beyond question that peer programmes can have statistically significant effects on attitudes, norms, knowledge, behaviours, and health and achievement outcomes.”***

HEAIDS has recruited and trained 12 000 peer educators throughout South Africa’s tertiary education system. These dedicated young people work with their fellow students to educate and support each other in combating the epidemic.

Part of each peer educator’s mandate is to recruit 100 other HIV-prevention advocates at their institutions. The result will be over a million educated young people dedicated to eradicating HIV in our country. These are the foot soldiers in the war against HIV.

“Critics of the NSP have pointed to the mounting burden on our healthcare system, and a shortage of the resources required to substantially increase our efforts to combat the epidemic. The ‘bottom up’ approach that I’m advocating would both mitigate the former problem and alleviate the latter,” Dr Ahluwalia continued.

“If we make our best and brightest young people the champions against HIV, we provide them with the tools to change their families and to live long and productive lives. We break the cycle of poverty and dependence for millions of people. There can be no better investment in the fight against HIV,” he concluded.

20
Apr
2018

Increasing the number of men who test for HIV in the post-schooling sector has been a key challenge since the launch of the First Things First program (FTF) in 2011. The FTF programme which contributes to the objectives of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, STIs and TB seeks to maximise opportunities for testing for HIV using rapid finger prick tests.

Over the past few years, female students have dominated the testing numbers with males always falling at 30% or below of those who tested. Last year saw this number rise for the first time, with the uptake of males who tested nationally at universities reaching a new precedent of 36%.

Alex Semba, HEAIDS Project Manager said a couple of strategies assisted in increasing male participation in testing drives. Mr. Semba and his team planned and facilitated thematically targeted interventions for young men. This included dialogues and targeted initiatives at Sports Days on various campuses.

The targeted location of testing facilities at locations that are frequented by men on campuses also assisted, with emphasis being placed on male residences and faculties that have majority male students. Proximity and accessibility remain central to all HIV/AIDS mitigation strategies.

“It took several integrated approaches to increase the number of males testing. The location, messaging and deliberate targeting has yielded results. The dialogues were aimed specifically at male students also proved to be really fruitful spaces for men to mobilise and engage in safe places about fears, concerns and lived experience”-according to Mr. Semba.

He added that; “In 2018, we plan to strengthen these initiatives so young men can begin to take decisive action in ensuring their own health. We implore all young men on campus to feel free to add and advise around what could make testing more youth male friendly. We look forward to working with our peer educators, learners and staff to keep the number rising. ”