Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

"Our Culture Does Not Allow That": Exploring the Challenges of Sexuality Education in Rural Communities

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

"Our Culture Does Not Allow That": Exploring the Challenges of Sexuality Education in Rural Communities

Article excerpt


An overwhelming 68% of the 34 million people living with HIV&AIDS globally live in developing countries (UNAIDS, 2011). In such countries AIDS is becoming a greater threat in rural areas than in cities. In addition, rural communities bear a higher burden of the cost of HIV&AIDS as many urban dwellers and migrant labourers return to their rural villages when they fall ill. Unfortunately, prevention information and health services are often less available in rural areas than in cities. Hence rural people are less likely to access these resources against HIV and, if they fall ill, less likely to get care (UNAIDS, 2010).

Responding to the challenges posed by HIV, Hargreaves, Bonnell, Boler, Boccia, Birdthistle, Fletcher, Pronyk and Glynn (2008) argue that education is a 'vaccine' against HIV due to relatively lower rates of infection among people with higher levels of educational participation. With sub-Saharan Africa bearing the brunt of new HIV infections and education being hailed as the vaccine against HIV infections, UNICEF (2007) advocated for the inclusion of Life Skills Education in the curriculum for sub-Saharan African countries as a niche for sexuality education. This has placed teachers, especially those in rural communities, at the forefront of the pandemic as prevention agents. Thus it is important for curriculum developers within developing countries hard-hit by HIV to be aware of the factors that affect the effectiveness of school- based sexuality education, such that these can be taken into consideration during curriculum planning. It is also important for teacher training institutions to be aware of the challenges faced by teachers in the classroom in terms of addressing sexuality education such that training programmes can be tailor-made to the specific needs of teachers and the contexts in which they will be teaching.

This paper draws from a postgraduate research project that aimed at exploring women teachers' experiences of teaching sexuality education in rural Lesotho schools in the age of HIV and AIDS in order to identify the factors creating impossibilities for their teaching. This article, therefore, aims to present and discuss some of the stumbling blocks against effective teaching of sexuality education in rural schools. The rural villages where the study was conducted are characterised by homesteads of thatch-roof huts surrounded by aloe-plant fencing and kraals for livestock. The villagers are very traditional and thus still adhere to most Basotho cultural practices. This set-up is not different from rural contexts in other African countries, especially South Africa, and the Basotho cultural practices are similar to those of most indigenous groups that populate South Africa. Thus, through the lessons learnt from the Lesotho context, the South African education system can possibly reshape its offering of sexuality education for rural communities.

Rural areas and schooling

Rurality is not an easily defined concept. According to De Gennaro and Fantini (2002), being rural as opposed to urban is an attribute that people easily attach to a place based on their own perceptions, which may include low population density, abundance of farmland or remoteness from urban areas. The common assumption is that rural areas are more likely to have community contexts conducive to tighter social control, less anonymity and the development of pro-social peer groups and family cohesion. Because of these attributes, rural communities are expected to exhibit more conforming behaviours. On the contrary, urban areas are more likely expected to display characteristics that create community contexts in which opportunities for greater involvement in deviant peer groups and weakened family control occur (Wilson & Donnermeyer, 2006).

Discussing rurality and schooling, Corbett (2007) documents the ironies and contradictions of formal education and rurality. He demonstrates how education is implicated in the depopulation and decline of rural areas as a consequence of increasing urbanity fuelled by global forces. …

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