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Embodied learning: responding to AIDS in Lesotho's education sector

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In contrast to pre-colonial practices, education in Lesotho's formal school system has historically assumed a Cartesian separation of mind and body, the disciplining of students' bodies serving principally to facilitate cognitive learning. Lesotho has among the highest HIV-prevalence rates worldwide, and AIDS has both direct and indirect impacts on the bodies of many children. Thus, students' bodies can no longer be taken for granted but present a challenge for education. Schools are increasingly seen as a key point of intervention to reduce young people's risk of contracting the disease and also to assist them to cope with its consequences: there is growing recognition that such goals require more than cognitive learning. The approaches adopted, however, range from those that posit a linear and causal relationship between knowledge, attitudes and practices (so-called 'KAP' approaches, in which the role of schools is principally to inculcate the pre-requisite knowledge) to 'life skills programmes' that advocate a more embodied learning practice in schools. Based on interviews with policy-makers and practitioners and a variety of documentary sources, this paper examines a series of school-based AIDS interventions, arguing that they represent a less radical departure from 'education for the mind' than might appear to be the case. The paper concludes that most interventions serve to cast on children responsibility for averting a social risk, and to 'normalise' aberrant children's bodies to ensure they conform to what the cognitively-oriented education system expects.

Keywords: AIDS; Africa; embodiment; life skills; schooling

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Human Geography, Brunel University, Kingston Lane, UK

Publication date: February 1, 2009


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