The Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority

HEAIDS’ psychosocial policy framework to combat issues faced by students at higher institutions in South Africa

November 8, 2019

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence (GBV) in the world. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between alcohol abuse, GBV and sexual risky behaviour among young South Africans. GBV reported cases, when resulted in the death of a female, increased by 53% from 2015/16 to 2016/17. GBV is not only a human rights issue but is also a public health issue that affects individuals, their families and communities at large.

In 2016, South African higher institutions of learning – universities and TVET colleges – reported an appalling 47 (reported) rape cases on their campuses. This growing number of GBV cases has a debilitating effect as not only does violence inflict pain such as bruising, broken bones or death, but it also has psychological effects such as substance abuse, depression, suicide or post-traumatic stress disorders. Violence impedes on an individual’s emotional
capacity, which takes away from the abused the energy to be fully present, more so if you are a student who needs to produce good grades.

Speaking at an Imbizo at the Tshwane North College in August 2018, Deputy Minister Buti Manamela, of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) said violence on campuses was continuous and that there was a dire need for psychosocial support for survivors of sexual abuse.

With the alarming number of deaths reported at higher institutions of learning, it is for this reason that DHET mandated HEAIDS to develop and implement a psychosocial policy and programme on campuses at 26 South African universities and 50 TVET colleges. This would help mitigate violence on campuses, as well deal with HIV, TB and other issues faced by students. HEAIDS is a non-profit organisation established under the DHET to ensure
students undergoing post school education and training (PSET) and studying at higher education institutions (HEI) are physically and emotionally healthy to enable them to take their rightful places in contributing to the economic growth of our country.

HEAIDS’ core focus lies in providing a comprehensive combination of prevention package of services in efforts to mitigate the spread of HIV, TB, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other health and wellness related ailments, along with integrating other issues affecting youth such as mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, LGBTQI issues, sexual reproductive health rights, economic empowerment, violence on campuses among others.  Historically, most TVET colleges and some universities did not have clinics or health care facilities, which left students without access to basic health services. This intervention saw the introduction of a peer-to-peer-led health and wellness programme on campuses, bringing a wide spectrum of services to the doorstep of young people – at no
cost to them.

HWSETA partnered with HEAIDS to combat issues related to health and wellness, HIV/AIDS, TB and STIs. It approved funding of R3.4 million that will go towards HEAIDS’ rollout of a prevention, treatment, support, care, and awareness programme. Information, education and communication (IEC) materials will be distributed at universities and TVET colleges throughout the country.

One hundred and eighty peer mentors will be recruited and trained to provide psychosocial support at campuses in districts where funded partners are not available. This will be through the paid services of social workers, psychologists or nurses. Mentors will also support and implement the awareness campaign at campus level as often, alcohol abuse among students leads to violent acts against women and unsafe sexual behaviours such as coerced sex,
unprotected intercourse and multiple sex partners.

HWSETA partnered with HEAIDS to combat issues related to health and wellness, HIV/AIDS, TB and STIs. It approved funding of R3.4 million that will go towards HEAIDS’ rollout of a prevention, treatment, support, care, and awareness programme. Information, education and communication (IEC) materials will be distributed at
universities and TVET colleges throughout the country. One hundred and eighty peer mentors will be recruited and trained to provide psychosocial support at campuses in districts where funded partners are not available. This will be through the paid services of social workers, psychologists or nurses. Mentors will also support and implement the awareness campaign at campus level as often, alcohol abuse among students leads to violent acts against women and unsafe sexual behaviours such as coerced sex, unprotected intercourse and multiple sex partners.

To contribute to skills development, we must also take into consideration the wellbeing of students and their campus
experiences at higher institutes of learning. They need to be enthusiastic and full of energy to do well in their studies so that they too can one day fully participate in the economic and social development activities of the country. This project with HEAIDS and HWSETA provides a holistic contribution to education as HWSETA’s involvement impacts the education sector beyond skills development.

The project will run for nine months, after starting in June 2019. Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of HEAIDS, has expressed his appreciation to DHET for bridging the relationship between HEAIDS and HWSETA. ‘’We are grateful for HWSETA’s willingness to collaborate with HEAIDS in the interests of upskilling students who have the
potential to graduate with both a well-rounded academic and social outlook. The programme will assist students to reach their full potential, take their rightful place as responsible persons in their families, communities, society, and contribute meaningfully in their various roles and towards the economy of the country’’, commented Dr Ahluwalia.

The HWSETA and HEAIDS believe the sustainability of this initiative is an important success factor that will produce tangible long-term benefits to the higher education sector, the youth and South African communities.

 

 

Last modified: November 8, 2019

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