New teachers trained with the Windows of Hope curriculum at one of Ghana's 41 teaching colleges
working with World Education.
"'The Window of Hope' curriculum has made it easier for me to teach about AIDS. I now see AIDS as very serious and dangerous. I understand it better, and I plan to introduce it in the secondary school classes I will teach." Lucy Nuwadzro, a teacher trainee in her first year of college.
"As we became more aware of our sexuality in secondary school, we also faced peer pressure. This was when many of my classmates started engaging in risky behaviors," comments a female student at a Teacher Training College in Ghana. "If we had received information about AIDS earlier on and had been aware of the dangers posed by our behavior, perhaps we would have also been able to resist peer pressure. Perhaps then we would have avoided the situations we faced prior to coming to Teacher Training College, like forced sexual activity and unwanted pregnancies."
In Ghana's education sector, HIV infection rates are estimated to be at least double the national rate, dealing a critical blow to the school system as well as teachers, students, and parents to ensure quality education. A 2000 report by UNICEF noted that there is a "disproportionately high incidence of HIV and AIDS" among teachers from sub-Saharan Africa. This serious problem has a ripple effect throughout the region. To address this growing crisis, World Education, in collaboration with the Ghanaian Ministries of Education and Health, developed the 'Window of Hope' curriculum for Ghana's 39 Teacher Training Colleges.
"If the 'Window of Hope' curriculum had existed when I was in secondary school, it would have controlled me," says Joshua Gasu, a male teacher trainee. His classmate Eric Abofra agrees. "I would have understood the consequences of getting HIV, so I would have done everything possible to prevent infection and would not have had as many relationships with women." "It all became clear to me when we were shown a film as part of the 'Window of Hope' curriculum," explains Joshua. "You see, I had six girlfriends at the time. After watching the film I realized I was in danger and that I had to break off these relationships. Somebody advised me to get tested [for HIV] and thankfully the test was negative. Since then I have changed my behavior."
Ghana's Teacher Training Colleges (TTC) provide a three-year training for all primary and junior secondary school teachers in Ghana. Before the 'Window of Hope' curriculum, teacher training did not include HIV and AIDS information. Now, teacher trainees are educated about HIV and AIDS transmission and prevention, personal risk, stigma, teacher responsibility, and sexual harassment and abuse. They are using this information to protect themselves and their families — particularly their children — and to address HIV & AIDS issues in the classroom, where collectively they will teach nearly 35,000 young people vital information about the virus.
World Education conducted qualitative research with teacher trainees used this curriculum for the first time. The study illuminated issues across a broad range of topic including the sexual behaviors of future teachers, teacher instigated sexual abuse and harassment, stigmas attached to people living with HIV, and the role of teachers in educating students about HIV.
Now starting its second year, two classes of teacher trainees have been exposed to the 'Window of Hope' curriculum. Students are thrilled with the curriculum and agree that not only has the curriculum changed how they plan to teach it has also changed their personal behavior and improved their communication skills and confidence. "Now I have the courage to talk about sex among people," states a female teacher trainee in her second year of TC. "I am no longer afraid to visit friends who are infected. I have one friend who is HIV positive, and I know he needs my support."
Teacher trainees agree that as future teachers they would not have taught about HIV & AIDS unless it was explicitly part of their syllabus; now, because of their training with the 'Window of Hope' curriculum, they plan to include HIV & AIDS education in their lessons whether or not they are directed to teach the subject. They will also play a greater "guidance" role with their students—something they did not get from their primary and secondary school teachers—and will help advise students who they know engage in risky behaviors to educate them and encourage them to change their behavior. "The 'Window of Hope' curriculum has made it easier for me to teach about AIDS," explained Lucy Nuwadzro, a teacher trainee in her first year of college. "I now see AIDS as very serious and dangerous. I understand it better, and I plan to introduce it in the secondary school classes I will teach."
The positive impact of the 'Window of Hope' curriculum has been noted not only by the teacher trainees, but also by professional educators who are teaching the curriculum to Ghana's future teachers. Both Madam Priscilla and Mr. Paul Doe were trained as 'Window of Hope' educators in the last year. They believe that since the introduction of the 'Window of Hope' curriculum, student sexual behavior has decreased or has at least become more careful, and a greater candidness is apparent throughout student discussion of HIV & AIDS and sexuality more generally.
Indeed, the positive impact of the 'Window of Hope' curriculum may resonate further. Madam Priscilla explains enthusiastically, "As a result of the training provided by the 'Window of Hope' curriculum, more information about HIV & AIDS will be available to students and teachers, and attitudes towards people living with HIV will change. If fewer teachers are infected, more will be available to teach healthier children, and ultimately Ghana will have greater achievements in education."