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AAAS Helping East African Universities Address AIDS Epidemic
African nations, with more than 70 percent of the world’s cases of AIDS, have suffered greatly from the disease. And university communities have not been exempt, says Alan Bornbusch, director of the AAAS Africa Program in the Directorate for International Programs.
"Some vice chancellors in East African universities are writing one letter a week of condolences to the families of students who have died of the disease," Bornbusch says. "The universities are also seeing increasing mortality rates among faculty and staff members."
To address the social and educational challenges of the AIDS epidemic in East African universities, AAAS has entered into a partnership with a Kenyan non-governmental organization, African Women in Science and Engineering (AWSE), as well as the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and International Women in Science and Engineering, to bring faculty and students to the United States for a meeting of the AAC&U’s Science and Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibility (SENCER) initiative. The partnership is supported by funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
A planning session, sponsored by AWSE was held in December in Nairobi. Representatives from universities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were invited during the session to submit proposals in early March that will send four individuals from each institution to the SENCER meeting, scheduled in August at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA.
At the August meeting, which takes place every year, the East African participants will learn about models of science education that use the latest information on scientific and public health aspects of AIDS to both improve basic science education and to promote appropriate civic responses to the pandemic. In addition, American university teams will learn from their African counterparts the toll the disease has taken on African campuses and what they the US students and their teachers can do to help. Each African team will be expected to hook up with a US institution to plan how to change the teaching of social and natural sciences in the African institutions to reflect the reality of the AIDS epidemic. The US institution will in turn explore ways to reflect the concerns and realities of Africa in their courses.
"In this way, we use HIV/AIDS to teach both the natural and social sciences," Bornbusch says. "Because AIDS is so much a part of the African students' reality, science education becomes immediately relevant to the students. We hope that this 'connected learning' will give students the ability to speak out about AIDS in a scientifically sound way -- regardless of what specialty they go into."