Changing perceptions about children with HIV
Safalta HIV Sikshya Sadan, established in 2010 and located in the outskirts of Kathmandu, is the pioneer special school for providing education to HIV positive children who are excluded from public schools.
After receiving grants from the British Council as part of the Social Action Project, through the Connecting Classrooms programme, the school embarked upon a mission to change stereotypical perceptions and raise awareness about HIV in their community.
Local programme creates positive change
The awareness programme was organised in their own community. The children along with their teachers visited door-to-door to distribute pamphlets urging locals to be a part of the awareness programme. Banners and posters were also prepared and displayed in the community.
Liza Gharti Magar, a teacher at the school, shared how the awareness campaign has achieved positive change in the mind-set of community residents:
“Locals used to think that children with HIV would easily transmit the disease if their own children mingled with them. But now they are more aware about it and are allowing their children to play, learn or do their homework during their spare time with the HIV children inside our premises. Moreover, they speak with us in friendly manner too. I believe our attempt to raise awareness about HIV has been successful.”
The students feel the positive impact as well. Manju Chand, a 12 year old student says:
“I used to feel very disheartened when people would discriminate against me, but it is not my fault I have HIV. Now I feel very happy that people have become compassionate towards us and are starting to acknowledge us and treat us equally.”
Some locals are even showing keen enthusiasm to send their children to study along with children from Safalta HIV Sikshya Sadan. Following the campaign, one couple has even urged teachers to allow their son to be admitted to the school.
Laxmi K.C, a local resident, expressed that the HIV awareness programme was heart-warming and hopes that similar campaigns will be effective in the long-run:
“We learnt that we should treat everyone equally and today locals are more aware about HIV. Previously the majority of people would use satirical behaviour towards the children and when these vulnerable children depicted those scenarios it was heart wrenching. Now we have vowed to treat them as we treat our children.”
However, this is just the beginning. Through similar campaigns and programmes the school hopes to bring about change in government policy, as the struggle and the battle for the rights of children suffering from HIV in Nepal continues.