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The influence of pre-conceptual and perceptual understandings of HIV/AIDS : a case study of selected Ugandan biology classrooms Mutonyi, Harriet

Abstract

Curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Uganda has largely depended on public and private media messages about the disease. In addition, the introduction of the topic of HIV/AIDS in the Senior Three (Grade 11) biology curriculum has added credence to the campaign. Media campaigns, especially those in local dialects, based on Uganda's cultural norms of communication are metaphorical, analogical and simile-like. To what extent do the students' pre-conceptions of the disease, based on media messages influence their development of conceptual understanding of the disease, its transmission and prevention? Of significant importance is the impact of the students' conceptions developed from the indirect media messages on classroom instructions on HIV/AIDS. This study describes Ugandan Senior Three students' pre-conceptual knowledge of HIV/AIDS and how these impact classroom instruction on HIV/AIDS. The study was conducted in four different Ugandan high schools: girls' boarding, boys' boarding, mixed boarding and mixed day. Using questionnaires, focus group discussions, recorded biology lessons and informal interviews, students' pre-conceptions of HIV/AIDS and how these impact instructions on HIV/AIDS were explicated. Interpretive data analysis suggests that students have internalized various messages and developed central beliefs on HIV/AIDS. Students use these central beliefs to understand and interpret HIV/AIDS messages. Some of these central beliefs are inconsistent with scientifically proven information on HIV/AIDS. Some of the beliefs are persistent even after classroom instruction on HIV/AIDS. This has implications on how the teaching of HIV/AIDS is planned arid implemented.

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