Economic and Educational Disparity
As economic vulnerability is an important risk factor for HIV, economic empowerment projects are becoming an increasingly common measure for HIV prevention and mitigation. Stakeholders are primarily concerned with the effects of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. However, concerted efforts have begun to improve their living conditions by finding sustainable ways to remove economic and educational disparity and improve their economic status.

Connections between economic and educational disparity and HIV status remain complicated. Few studies have linked involvement in economic empowerment methods and HIV outcomes for young women. Therefore, the exploration of effective interventions must go beyond the healthcare sector to further address the linkage between HIV risks and economic and social factors.

Furthermore, strong stigmatization of the disease persists in sub-Saharan Africa in addition to poor awareness of HIV transmission and preventive initiatives. This increases the need to improve HIV-related knowledge in the region for future prevention strategies. Thus far, initiatives to improve HIV-related awareness in sub-Saharan Africa have included a broad range of information-dissemination methods, including the use of means that can easily reach the vulnerable populations, such as mass media or community-based social cohesion methods.

The significant social determinants of HIV require more comprehensive educational interventions. These interventions became designed in light of social- and gender-inequity-based theories. These include social norms theory, the social constructivist theory of gender and the theory of gender and power. Furthermore, approaches focused on behavior theories have undergone wide use in interventions aimed at improving HIV-related knowledge, as experts have found that HIV-education interventions, when combined with behavioral change components, correlate with a higher probability of eventual implementation of preventive behaviors.

The Current Landscape

Implementation issues in HIV-education interventions became neglected. The sub-Saharan region of Africa suffers from a lack of HIV education because this region has the highest rates of education exclusion and the highest out-of-school rates for all age groups in the world. A disproportionate number of young children attend school for a short while and quickly drop out. Around 20% of children from 6 to 11 years old are out of school in addition to 34% of children between 12 and 14 years old. According to UIS, 60% of teenagers from 15 to 17 years old remain unenrolled in school.

These statistics show that HIV-education interventions do not always have wide distribution. This results in few youths receiving education from these programs. Thus, how to deliver effective HIV/AIDS education in sub-Saharan Africa is worth discussing.

Current trends in sub-Saharan Africa indicate that digital education is getting traction even though technological barriers persist. Many perceive digital education as not only a better form of learning but also as a cost-effective way to broaden educational opportunities. The rapidly growing population is exploding with demands for education. Countries are increasingly embracing digital tools to increase access to education and improve educational and social equity.

According to World Bank Education, the learning crisis, which resulted from learning poverty, started long before the COVID-19 pandemic. With the spread of COVID-19, 1.6 billion children and youth are out of school. Thus, it has become more and more urgent to prepare students in low-resource areas for digital learning. This is so they have an opportunity to gain healthcare knowledge, especially the knowledge of COVID-19 treatment and HIV prevention.

Educational Radio Programmes

Educational radio programming can be an excellent tool to keep children from disadvantaged areas engaged in HIV-knowledge acquisition. It enables disadvantaged populations to access the information they need to achieve sustainable development. Many of these radio programs aim to improve regional development. Community radio platforms became promoted to encourage local development. Many villages have limited access to information about education and nutrition. Radio programs allow them to study and improve their living conditions.

UNESCO, which set up multi-collaborations with low-resource countries, stated that these countries rely heavily on the radio (93%) and “the use of radio and television broadcasts as distance learning solutions is a powerful way to bridge the digital divide in the education sector and reach the most marginalized learners.” Previous research and studies have focused on how the radio programs have developed in recent years, but these studies have neglected the application of radio and have rarely directly studied how people use the radio, and specifically how radio platforms can be effective educational tools.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa seek to develop into emerging nations by 2035 and are setting policies and goals. For example, in Cameroon, the government has prioritized Information Communication Technologies (ICT) development in the economic, culture and education domains in all state sectors, with a specific focus on ICT in the education domain. It encouraged programs consisting of agriculture, health and rural and urban development content for a mass audience. Many see radio programming as a way for Cameroon to achieve overall development.

Educational Equity and Digital Learning

Still, a portion of the population in the rural areas – for example, 42% of the population of Cameroon – cannot receive national radio services. Young adolescents in these rural areas are still in a more disadvantaged position than those in urban districts because they are unable to receive important information.

Therefore, policymakers ought to develop a short- or long-term digital learning arrangement and evaluate their systems’ capability to support a digital learning paradigm that incorporates a mixture of technologies and delivery mechanisms. It is also critical for policymakers to collaborate with outside stakeholders such as EdTech companies, local broadcast centers and private radio stations to ensure the accelerated growth of the designated digital learning modality. Dispersing economic and educational disparity should always be the priority among all planning efforts.

Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr