Globalisation and policy borrowing in education : a discourse-historical analysis of HIV/AIDS prevention in Uganda
Meyer, Brooke Barnowe
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Educational discourses, practices and institutions are increasingly shaped today by forces and envoys of a globalised world. Research suggests that functional integration into a neo-liberal world economy compels many nation-states to eschew indigenous educational priorities in favour of a globally structured agenda for education. This thesis explores the emergence of new educational policy responses to this agenda, with a particular emphasis on the practice of policy ‘borrowing’. While numerous studies have explored educational issues including curricular convergence and mass schooling in the context of policy borrowing, few have explored health education from a similar theoretical perspective. This thesis applies the Globally Structured Agenda for Education (GSAE) approach to the study of Uganda’s efforts to borrow an abstinence-only educational intervention as the nation’s primary HIV/AIDS prevention strategy. Uganda is regarded by many AIDS researchers and public health professionals as one of the world’s most compelling success stories in the battle against HIV and AIDS. From the early 1990s until 2003, the Ugandan government actively promoted a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention, encouraging Ugandans of all ages to observe the ‘ABCs’ of sexual health (Abstain, Be Faithful, use Condoms). Unlike the vast majority of its sub-Saharan counterparts, Uganda then experienced a rapid and extraordinary decline in rates of HIV prevalence. In 2004, however, the government of Uganda abruptly abandoned the popular ABC approach in favour of ‘policy borrowing’ PEPFAR, the model of sexual health education advocated by the United States. This exclusively promoted the benefits of abstinence until marriage. The sudden shift in education policy and public discourse in Uganda is the focus of this research. Two forms of documentary analysis are used. The first explores the borrowing process in detail, examining the interests and motivations underlying cross-national policy attraction, decision-making, implementation and ultimately, indigenisation in Uganda. The second explores the social, educational and health consequences of an abstinence-until-marriage approach in the context of Uganda’s localised AIDS epidemic. A discourse-historical approach is utilised to examine the ways in which language and rhetoric establish a narrative correlation between premarital abstinence and HIV prevention in Uganda, and to analyse the extent to which public discourse legitimately reflects the social, economic and epidemiological conditions in-country. The findings suggest the discourse on HIV/AIDS prevention in Uganda focuses mainly on (i) the severity of the national epidemic, (ii) the scope, nature and success of the ABC approach, (iii) the virtues of pre-marital abstinence, and (iv) the prophylactic inefficiency of condom use. The various arguments in support of abstinence-until-marriage education are found to be largely motivated by the political ambitions and economic aspirations of key power elites in Uganda. This finding suggests the neo-liberal, capital-driven imperatives of a global education agenda have indeed come to supersede local health needs in Uganda. The study concludes that Uganda’s efforts to halt the spread HIV/AIDS through abstinence-until- marriage education fail to adequately address the prevention needs of the nation’s adolescents and adults. This is evidenced by the fact the largest percentage of HIV-positive persons in Uganda are married, divorced and/or widowed women. Rather than marriage being seen as – in the American model – a ‘safe haven’ from the virus, it is instead the very place where Ugandans are most at risk. This has profound implications not only for education and health policy-making in Uganda, but also raises serious questions about the efficacy and relevance of ‘borrowing’ policies whose origins, ideologies and political contexts emanate from elsewhere.