According to UCT honorary lecturer and health educationalist, Dr Athol Kent, if health science education in South Africa is to move ahead into the future successfully, it is essential that educationalists combine their experience and expertise and co-operate with each other.
This was just one of the many points made at a series of workshops hosted by the South African Association of Health Educationalists (SAAHE) and attended by representatives from health sciences faculties across the country.
From May 1 - 2, 90 people attended the workshops, intended to initiate and foster collaboration between health educationalists throughout South Africa by facilitating the valuable exchange of problems, solutions and experiences relating to issues of importance to students and health educationalists.
Besides the teaching of HIV/AIDS, other topics included curriculum reform, skills laboratories (an environment where students practise on dolls and dummies rather than patients) and the use of information technology in teaching.
"By all working in our own areas and not communicating with one another, there is duplication and no awareness of what and how others are teaching," Kent said. "Talking to each other about practical issues around these topics allows us to get a better understanding of how others dealt with them, what works and what doesn't," he added.
Kent facilitated the workshop on HIV/AIDS together with Professor Gary Maartens, head of UCT's Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine.
A 2002 study of first-year UCT and Stellenbosch students revealed that most first-years were not only uninformed about HIV, but were also extremely naÃ¯ve, sexually and socially, despite being clever students, Kent explained.
"If we give young people the correct information regarding HIV, they will have the knowledge and background to make their own decisions. I believe the way to change people's attitudes and ensure behaviour change is through getting people to talk to each other regarding their own experiences, in a group, with a knowledgeable leader.