Education, The Social Vaccine for Youth HIV Prevention: Are We Doing Enough? Systematic Analysis of the Education Situation in Eswatini
Eswatini has more than 350 000 of young people between the ages 10-24 years. Education remains a fundamental intervention in ensuring an economic and social developed society with decent work. Eswatini provides free primary education, but faces issues of grade repeating and drop-outs throughout primary and secondary, and overall low enrolment and attendance at higher levels. The education and training sector policy assures the provision of relevant educational and training programmes, and commits the country to inclusive, life-long learning and improvements in access, quality, equity, relevance, efficiency, and delivery of education. Beginning in 2008, the MOET introduced the ‘Schools as Centres of Care a Support’ programme, or Inqaba. In the context of widespread poverty, the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Eswatini, and endemic issues of violence against children, the Inqaba programme strives to promote school environments that are child-friendly, safe, and conducive for learning. Methods: The systematic analysis of the education situation in Eswatini was prepared in stages: desk review and analysis, consultations/interview meetings with key stakeholders, data analysis and compilation of the report. Results: Eswatini has an enabling policy environment, combined with free primary education indicating momentous effort to provide quality, appropriate, and affordable education for all. Over 90% of primary-aged children are enrolled in school. The country has not seen the same success at secondary and tertiary levels, only 27% of secondary –school aged children are actually enrolled in school. Young women overwhelmingly (38.3%) report pregnancy as their reason for dropping out. This could explain the high HIV prevalence among young females aged 15-19 years standing at 10.2%, compared to 1.9% for males the same age. In the age group 20-24 years, HIV prevalence amongst females is 38.2%, compared to 12.3% for males in the same age bracket. HIV incidence is also significantly higher amongst young Emaswati females (15-19 years) compared to the males same age group standing at: 3.84 for females compared to 0.84 for males. The protective years of education finish very early among young people, thus making them more vulnerable. Conclusion: Expansion of the Free Primary Education Act to include the 3 years of junior secondary, thereby becoming a Free Basic Education Act entitling all children to at least 12 years of schooling free of charge. Extending the protective effects of education.