Grassroots HIV/AIDS education seminars

Botswana HIV/AIDS Project

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Kgolagano College, Botswana, Southern Africa

The HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa staggers the imagination. According to year 2000 United Nations statistics, Sub Saharan Africa accounts for more than 71 percent of people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. Six thousand Africans die daily of AIDS, making it the worst infectious disease calamity since the Plague of the Middle Ages. More persons will die of AIDS in Africa over the next decade than have died from all the world’s wars of the 20th Century. Twelve and one-half million African children have been orphaned by AIDS, 90 percent of the world’s total. One in five of Botswana’s two million citizens is HIV positive. As Botswana has one of the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS in Africa and is a very rural country, it requires serious attention.

Kgolagano College of Theological Education by Extension was founded 30 years ago as an ecumenical response to the growing need for theological education for the leadership of Africa’s growing Christian Church. It provides ecumenical theological education to laity and clergy alike on an extension model, i.e., going to people where they live, including rural and isolated areas. The college has pioneered the short course format. These are theme and ministry oriented courses, offered in the local language, aimed at ministers and lay leaders, offering practical continuing education. The program makes use of nonliterate ways of learning such as storytelling, pictures, song, cassette, video, common objects, drama, and ritual.

The college offers HIV/AIDS training seminars and short courses in rural and semi-rural areas to grassroots leaders of mainline and independent churches. In Botswana, government AIDS awareness programs and activities do not reach out to isolated communities. The project targets grassroots congregational leadership so that they can stand up to the challenge and build the necessary preventive mechanisms to withstand the onslaught of HIV/AIDS in their settlements and communities.

The course is interdisciplinary, involving a coordinator, theologian, AIDS counselor, and clerical staff and makes use of a computer, printer, and a vehicle for transport. The college has already piloted this HIV/AIDS program in two regions of the country, Hukuntsi and Tsabong, and evaluations indicate these programs are very successful. This project also pays special attention to women and children who are more vulnerable to AIDS. It hopes to make the church relevant to the pressing social needs created by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and equip the church to reach out to people affected, perhaps even dying, without understanding.

Project staff, materials, and resources are brought together in a three-day short course for 35 participants. Participants are provided with meals and overnight accommodations along with program materials. The college wants to put on six of these short courses over the course of this year. The seminars will be implemented as each is funded. Participants will come away with a human sexuality and health based understanding of HIV/AIDS and methods of prevention and treatment. The course covers cultural beliefs and practices and their role in the spread and prevention of HIV/AIDS as well as socio-economic factors, biblical and theological issues, and ethical/legal issues, all relating to HIV/AIDS.

Reverend Moses Kandovazu, Kgolagano College’s Short-Course Program Coordinator, oversees the implementation of the program. Kgolagano College relates to the Botswana Christian Council, the Botswana Synod of the United Congregational Church of South Africa, and has a long partnership relationship with Global Ministries.

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