‘Cascading participation’ and the role of teachers in a collaborative HIV and Aids curriculum development project
This paper presents findings of four Grade 6 teachers’ involvement as facilitators of a participatory action research (PAR) project conducted in three South African primary schools. Based on the results of Phase One research which indicated that Grade 6s learn about sexuality, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) from multiple sources, the Phase Two project designers developed a toolkit to help Life Orientation (LO) teachers consult learners on what they know and how they want to be taught. In each school, a curriculum development group comprising the participating teacher, learners, parents and an HIV and Aids specialist worked to enhance the official HIV and Aids curriculum using the information gathered each week by the teacher. This dialogue between the study participants represents the culmination of what we describe as the project’s ‘cascading participation’ research model, a term denoting the multiple levels of participant involvement in the study. Although theories of participation often depict a binary relationship between those with power and those without it, the implementation of this project shows how the official curriculum, cultural norms and low parent involvement can exert pressure at different levels to diminish teachers’ ability to facilitate social and educational change.
Keywords: curriculum development; HIV and Aids; HIV and Aids knowledge; participatory action research; teachers