XIX International AIDS Conference

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MOPE541 Poster Exhibition


Strengthening the social workforce: building the capacity of community-based caregivers to provide psychosocial through a situated supported distance learning programme

Presented by Lisa Langhaug (Zimbabwe).

L. Langhaug1, M. Kluckow2, S. McMaster3, L. Mudekunye4


1REPSSI, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2REPSSI, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 3The African Centre for Childhood, Durban, South Africa, 4REPSSI, Deputy Executive Director, Johannesburg, South Africa

Background: HIV and AIDS pose grave threats to young people's psychosocial development. In Eastern and Southern Africa, community-based caregivers who provide psychosocial care and support to this population have extremely limited access to formal and up-to-date learning opportunities. In response, REPPSI developed an accredited Situated and Supported Distance Learning Certificate in 2009.
Methods: Applied learning principles informed curriculum design. 553 students from eight countries (Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) participated in the year-long course. Students studied from hard copies of six modules and attended four 5-hour group sessions per module facilitated by a skilled mentor to discuss their learning. With logistic support from the African Centre for Childhood, students completed hand-written assignments assessed by academic supervisors at the University of KwaZulu Natal. Phone interviews with alumni captured impact data 18 months following course completion.
Results: While regionally, average completion rates for distance learning courses run below 30%, we achieved an unprecedented 89% completion rate. Key elements to programme success included relevancy of course material to real life situations, regular student support, and constructive feedback on written assignments. Of the 309 (63%) alumni interviewed, 70% (n=216) remain working in their same communities with 47% working for an NGO, 20% each work for an FBO/CBO or government department. 23% of the 183 alumni who began as volunteers are now paid; 74% of them attribute this change to course participation.
Conclusions: This innovative learning and teaching model yielded very high rates of student completion, skills, and knowledge retention demonstrating that relevant, formal learning experiences that build critical capacity of community-based caregivers is achievable. Success was attributed appropriate learning materials supported by trained mentors in regular, well-organized group sessions with continuous valuable assessment. Currently, almost 1000 students from 10 countries are about to graduate, trebling total reach across the continent.

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