Challenges of HIV and AIDS counselling in basic schools: a case of Mazabuka basic schools,Mazabuka district,Zambia
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The study aimed at investigating the challenges of HIV and AIDS counseling in Basic Schools as expressed by the District Guidance and Counseling Coordinator, School Managers, Guidance and Counseling Teachers, Class Teachers and learners. It also examined the conditions of the counseling rooms as well as record keeping. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative methods, though qualitative method was largely used. It took a form of descriptive research design. The respondents consisted of 129 purposively selected individuals in Mazabuka Basic Schools (72 class teachers, 8 school managers, 8 guidance and counseling teachers or school counselors and 40 learners) as well as the District Guidance and Counseling Coordinator. Relevant data were collected with the use of structured and unstructured interviews, observations and focus group discussions. The collected data were analyzed using descriptive statistics as well as thematic analysis. The results of the study indicated that most of the Guidance and Counseling Teachers (90 percent) were not trained in the field of HIV and AIDS. Only 13.6 percent of the Basic Schools had counseling rooms against 86.4 percent, which did not have this facility. The study also revealed that no counseling session records were kept by all the guidance and counseling teachers. It was also found that 4.5 percent of the guidance and counseling teachers had a light teaching load that could allow them to work effectively as HIV and AIDS school counselors. Only 2.3 percent of teachers were said to be coordinating effectively with the school counselors concerning HIV-positive status of pupils in their class and only 2.3 percent of the teachers were coordinating with the parents of HIV-positive pupils. It was further found that no pupils in all the Basic Schools went for HIV and AIDS counseling. Lastly, the results revealed that monitoring or supervision of the HIV and AIDS counseling services was not adequate. The study concluded that HIV and AIDS counseling was not effective in Basic Schools due to various challenges. These included: insufficient trained staff in the field of HIV and AIDS, teachers having a heavy workload and having no extra time allocated for HIV and AIDS related programmes, lack of materials and resources; HIV prevention and AIDS management not regarded as priority in some schools; focus was often on awareness and dissemination of HIV and AIDS information and not on life- skills and capacity building; cultural issues; learners not trusting their teachers; lack of confidentiality, privacy and secrecy; no record keeping and inadequate supervision of HIV and AIDS related counseling services. Based on the findings of the study, there is need for Guidance and Counseling Teachers to be trained in the field of HIV and AIDS related issues, school managers need to ensure that they provide suitable rooms for guidance and counseling and learners to be sensitized about the functions of the guidance and counseling office.