oa Journal of Education - Making pupils the resources and promoting gender equality in HIV/AIDS education

Volume 38, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0259-479X



Educational resources are usually understood as material things with monetary values, but, as I propose in this paper, with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS and sex education, they should also be conceptualised as the lives and identities of pupils. How teachers can tap into the rich potential of pupils by developing appropriate teaching materials and pedagogies is a major theme addressed in this paper which draws on a recent UNICEFfunded study with mainly black African teenage children as a model of good pedagogic practice and as a source of rich material about young people which can be used to generate further reflexive discussion in sex education. In this study loosely structured (mixed and single sex) group interviews were conducted with young people, from countries in Southern and Eastern Africa, about their lives, identities and their relations with others. In these, young people were positioned as experts, with the adult researchers trying to establish friendly and non-judgmental relations with them and encouraging them to set the agenda. In some counties the young people were also asked to record significant experiences in diaries. Gender and sexuality emerged as key categories through which boys and girls defined themselves and others, yet sexuality was also reported as a topic which was rarely discussed with adults including teachers. I argue for sex education teachers to be like the UNICEF researchers � friendly, non-judgmental and self-reflexive, aware of themselves as resources modelling versions of gender and authority. Boys and girls, in all countries, tended to define themselves in opposition to each other, notably in relation to sexuality, with male initiated sexual desire constructed as the main source of attraction between the sexes, though these gendered versions of self and sexuality were often contradicted in the diaries they kept. In interviews conducted in all the countries girls were distinguished as �good� and �bad� in relation to sexuality, and the effect of this was to circumscribe girls� behaviour � including their capacity to talk, in mixed groups especially, about sexuality and to challenge forms of control emanating from these moral binaries. In response to these findings, I advocate and develop sex educational pedagogies and activities which aim to help students to explore the (different) ways they construct their gendered identities, in various sites, including school and the sex education class. I also suggest specific ways of working with boys and girls which encourage students to challenge forms of gender polarisation, in which they may be invested. For these mitigate against boys and girls taking themselves as resources and freely discussing gender and sexuality in sex education.

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