Religious Pluralism, Conflict and HIV/Aids Education in Refugee-Affected Regions of North-Western Kenya
Chege, Fatuma N.
Ochieng, Rubai Mandela
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This paper examines how multi-religious factors influence the teaching and learning of HIV/AIDS education in refugee schools based on a qualitative study conducted in refugee-affected communities in North-Western Kenya. The study involved a total of 3 primary schools from Kakuma Refugee Camp (KRC) and 3 from the host community. A sample of 617 respondents of diverse nationalities, including 356 male and 160 female pupils, was used. The study utilized semi-structured interviews, observation, FGDs, documentary analysis and drawings to generate data. The findings reveal that, first; traditional ethnic cultures interacted with religion to influence the nature and level of interaction between boys and girls during HIV/AIDS education lessons, thereby determining the process of learning. Whereas Somali Muslim pupils sat and worked in same gender clusters, Christian Sudanese and Turkana boys and girls interacted across genders more freely. Consequently, the cultural and religious tendencies denied Muslim Somali boys and girls an opportunity to work together as allies in addressing pertinent and effective strategies in HIV/AIDS education. Further, unlike the Christian Turkana and Ugandan girls who seemed open and outgoing in their participation in HIV/AIDS education activities, Somali and Ethiopian Muslim girls remained quiet, reserved and shy as a way of showing respect to male teachers and pupils. In this regard, Kenyan Christian teachers interpreted the behaviour of Somali and Ethiopian Muslim girls to mean disobedience and hence, tended to exclude the girls during classroom activities. Because religion determined the teacher’s interpretation of the content, pupils received different and sometimes conflicting messages on similar topics depending on the teacher’s religious background. It was therefore concluded that religious beliefs influenced the learning of HIV/AIDS education in refugee schools in a complex manner, which teachers need to understand clearly for them to be able to enhance inclusive and responsive learning