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“To take the information down to the people” : life skills and HIV/AIDS peer educators in the Durban area

James, Deborah ORCID: 0000-0002-4274-197X (2002) “To take the information down to the people” : life skills and HIV/AIDS peer educators in the Durban area. African Studies, 61 (1). pp. 169-191. ISSN 1469-2872

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Identification Number: 10.1080/00020180220140127


Education in “life skills” has been a central pillar of state and NGO strategy in combating the threat of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Based on research conducted in Durban in 1999, this paper examines how life skills education – thought of by some as a euphemism for “teaching about safe sex” but by others as an essential way of contextualising sex education in its broader context of empowerment and striving for equitable gender relations – is understood in contrasting ways by senior personnel and the largely unpaid volunteers who form the ranks of peer educators. Outlining the complicated institutional context of funding and educational practice in which this teaching has been taking place, the paper shows how conceptualisations of the role played by life skills peer educators, and their motivation for involvement in such programmes, diverge considerably. Senior personnel see educators as conveyors of accurate biological knowledge about reproduction and disease transmission to their peers and, subscribing to development discourse about “sustainability”, perceive them as driven primarily by an altruistic spirit of voluntarism. What is equally important for some peer educators, however, is the sense of identity provided by involvement in such programmes, and the prospects for future employment, and escape from the beleaguered world of township poverty, which they offer.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: Published 2002 © Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group. LSE has developed LSE Research Online so that users may access research output of the School. Copyright and Moral Rights for the papers on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copyright owners. Users may download and/or print one copy of any article(s) in LSE Research Online to facilitate their private study or for non-commercial research. You may not engage in further distribution of the material or use it for any profit-making activities or any commercial gain. You may freely distribute the URL (<>) of the LSE Research Online website.
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 19 May 2006
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2024 03:28

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