UNESCO launched a campaign to reduce Early and Unintended Pregnancy (EUP) in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) on 20th June 2018 during the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Ministers of Education Meeting in Durban, South Africa.

The launch of the campaign is part of the ESA Ministerial commitment, which was endorsed in December 2013 by Ministers of Education and Health in the ESA region. The commitment has prompted significant progress by Member States to address the needs of adolescents and young people with respect to ensuring access to life skills-based HIV and sexuality education and youth-friendly SRH services. One of the targets of the ESA Commitment was to reduce EUP by 75% by the year 2020. In the 2017 Technical Coordination Group (TCG) meeting of the ESA Commitment, countries agreed to focus on the issue of EUP as an area requiring intervention across all countries and there was a clear recommendation to launch a Regional EUP campaign. Following this recommendation, UNESCO commissioned a situation analysis on EUP in 10 countries in ESA to assess the magnitude of the problem in the region. The study revealed that EUP in ESA is very high with at least 15% of 15-19 year olds ever having been pregnant.

Ministers at the launch of the campaign were invited to approve the recommendations from the situation analysis while renewing their commitment to attainment of the ESA commitment targets. In addition, to mandate country ESA Technical working groups to strengthen implementation and reporting of country progress and to commission the SADC Secretariat and its partners to support implementation of a Regional Campaign on Early and Unintended Pregnancy.

Based on the findings of the situational analysis, the campaign will have the following objectives,

  1. Advocate for the right of girls to complete education through the development and operationalisation of EUP prevention, management and re-entry policies.
  2. Advocate for the delivery of CSE that develops learners’ knowledge and skills to prevent pregnancy through integrating content on pregnancy prevention, access to contraceptives, gender equality and power dynamics within relationships.
  3. Increase adolescent access to health education and services (incl. contraception) through establishment of referral system between schools and health facilities.
  4. Eliminate school related gender based violence and engage boys and young men in learning and practicing pregnancy prevention.
  5. Shift cultural norms that put girls at risk of EUP and promote parent-child communication about sexual health

The findings from the situation analysis are summarised in the following video, which was also played during the launch of the campaign.

Government officials from ministries of education and health from 20 countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa met from 18 and 19 June 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa to review the East and Southern Africa (ESA) Commitment progress. The meeting brought together core members of the technical coordinating group, select civil society organisations (CSO) at country and regional levels, United Nations, SADC PF, and development partners.

The Technical Coordinating Group (TCG), under the leadership of UNESCO and UNFPA, with support from UNAIDS, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) Secretariats, plays a key role in the management of the ESA Commitment process and the implementation of the accountability mechanism. Each year, a TCG face-to-face meeting is held to discuss implementation and progress towards ESA Commitment targets.

Speaking at the meeting, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, and his UNFPA counterpart for Eastern and Southern Africa Region, Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, applauded governments for their commitment, and called on the stakeholders to begin looking at post 2020 plans when the Commitment is meant to expire. They emphasised the need to accelerate efforts in providing CSE, and access to SRHR services for adolescents and young people.

This year’s TCG meeting focused on dialogue, debates and interactions, particularly on sharing the ‘how’ of HIV and Health Education and youth friendly health services provision. It highlighted tangible regional and national actions needed in the spirt of the Step Up and Deliver 2020 Roadmap. Moreover, in 2017, the TCG commissioned the CSO Platform to produce a regional report on the implementation of the ESA Commitment, looking at issues of accountability, coordination, resources, and youth leadership. The report formed the framework for discussion at the TCG. The meeting also agreed on the roll-out of the proposed early and unintended pregnancy campaign resulting from a situational analysis, which was commissioned in 2017.

15 June, 2018 – Harare, Zimbabwe
40 Master Trainers from Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania, as well as national partner, regional and global organisations,  have been involved in a workshop to adapt and pilot the Connect with Respect Tool in the four countries, aiming to end School-Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV). The tool is a result of experience sharing by the Global Working Group to end SRGBV, with the partnership of UNESCO and UNGEI, sharing specific lessons from a classroom programme for early secondary school level entitled, Connect with Respect: Preventing gender‐based violence in schools that was developed for Asia and Pacific teachers to help them deal with SRGBV in their local context and to teach secondary grade students to understand the causes and effects of gender‐based violence, and thereby, to develop their skills for building respectful relationships.

The workshop that took place in Harare, Zimbabwe from 11 to 15 June 2018 came as a result of analysis and consultations on the situation of SRGBV in the ESA region in March 2017. Hosted by UNESCO, countries in the region examined entry points based on existing SRGBV prevention and response efforts within the education sector. In addition, activities in the Connect-With-Respect-Tool were reviewed within the context of East and Southern Africa, paving the way for the Master of Trainers workshop to pilot the tool in the region.

The workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe sought to provide an opportunity for education systems in the region to deploy a well‐developed, evidence informed resource for use in classroom prevention education, and for schools to participate in research trials, which will help to provide knowledge about impact and effectiveness. Particularly, the workshop aimed to:

  • Provide a tailored version of Connect-with-Respect tool,
  • Investigate whether Connect with Respect produces positive changes in knowledge, attitudes
    and behaviour,
  • Collect regional data on effective programming, informing future investments by the education
    systems in the prevention of SRGBV,
  • Develop the capacity of the region to deliver and evaluate educational programs, and
  • Encourage and enable education systems to provide SRGBV education to schools.

The workshop Master Trainers participating in the workshop included education officials and teacher training experts who are expected to work as multipliers by extending training and technical support to teachers, head teachers and district education officials in pilot schools on the Connect-with-Respect tool.

The workshop was delivered by trainers from the Graduate School of Education Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, Australia, as well as from the four pilot countries. The training content focused on;

  • Understanding the patterns of GBV,
  • Raising Awareness about GBV,
  • Skills needed for positive gender relationships, and
  • Using a whole‐school approach to positive gender relations.

As follow-up, Ministries of Education (MoE) in the four piloting countries are expected to take the leading role in facilitating Connect with Respect trial activities. MoEs will work with UNESCO to identify their needs to meet all requirements of the pilot exercise.

Zimbabwe launched its School Health Policy on 11th June 2018 in Harare as a strategic means to promote positive health determinants while preventing and mitigating health risks among learners.

Jointly developed by the Ministries of Health and Child Care and Primary and Secondary Education, the policy has the vision of “A primary and secondary education system with an enabling environment for the provision of equitable, sustainable and quality health services for all learners.”

Key components of the policy include:

  • Competency based health education
  • Psychosocial support services
  • Safe and sanitary school environment
  • Disaster risk management
  • School based health and nutrition services
  • School – family – community health linkage services
  • Support facilities and services for learners with special needs; and
  • Health promotion for school staff

The launch which was held under the theme, “Ensuring a healthy mind in a healthy body’, was attended by the Ministers of Health and Child Care, and Primary and Secondary Education, other senior Government Officials, members of the UN family, teachers, healthy professionals, development partners and civil society representatives.

Speaking at the launch, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Prof. Paul Mavima, said he was pleased that the policy was finally being launched after a long period of consultations with parents, learners and stakeholders in both the education and health sectors.

“The policy provides mechanisms to coordinate a systematic approach to addressing health issues for learners in our schools,” he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Health and Child Care, David Parirenyatwa said, “a comprehensive school health programme denotes a set of policies, procedures and activities set to protect, promote and support the health and welfare of pupils and staff which include the provision of health services, healthy school environment, life skills, health education and school nutrition”.

Speaking on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Bishow Parajuli, WFP Representative, Mr Eddie Rowe, said since the majority of adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe spend the most of their time in school, implementing a robust school health programme increases the reach of health promotion interventions in this age group.

“HIV remains a significant public health concern in Zimbabwe especially among adolescents and youths, therefore, the School Health Program provides an opportunity for us to step up HIV prevention efforts among young people, and to promote adherence for those young people who are already on treatment,” he said.

The report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training (1999) recommended the development of a school health policy. The development of the policy can be traced back to 2004. The impetus to finalise the policy was provided after the coming in of the Zimbabwe Curriculum Framework, 2015-2022, which acknowledges that healthy and happy learners learn better, while poor health can have a detrimental effect on school attendance and academic performance.

UN agencies in Zimbabwe including UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO and WFP supported the development of the policy. The Policy is seen as a bridge to engage the education sector in efforts to positively influence the educational, social and economic conditions that affect health. In addition, ensuring that a school-going-age population is healthy is key for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For more information, please contact: l.halimani@unesco.org

 

Article from our Technical Coordination Group Member, SAfAIDS

Many of the young people who take part in youth groups like the Youth for Gender Norms Transformation (Y4GT) are eloquent in speaking about to HIV and gender-based violence, but for 16 year-old Somvubu High School student Nomdumo Moyo, the this topic is very broad and she chooses to look at it from a different perspective.

Speaking to SAfAIDS on the sidelines of a meeting at the school, the teen said discrimination was one of the major issues fueling violence among young people in Bubi area.

“When we talk of discrimination, we do not limit it to issues of HIV alone. Discrimination comes in different forms and affects young people negatively. For example, before the Y4GT programme was introduced in Inyathi, some pupils used to discriminate against others based on their family and economic backgrounds and this resulted in the other pupils not performing well during exams,” she said.

Nomdumo explained that with the training that she got, she was able to counsel students so that they stop discriminating against others based on their HIV status or poverty. She also said that on a number of occasions she has referred pupils with major problems to the two teachers who head the programme for further counselling.

Read more on the SafAIDS Website.