Focusing on HIV/AIDS Research at the Faculty of Education

A trio of Faculty of Education professors are working in partnership with scholars in Africa in an effort to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic in that region.

From left to right top row: Maureen Kendrick, Elizabeth Namazzi, Samson Nashon; Bottom row: Bonny Norton, Annette Tushabomwe (MA Student, Curriculum and Pedagogy)

From left to right top row: Maureen Kendrick, Elizabeth Namazzi, Samson Nashon; Bottom row: Bonny Norton, Annette Tushabomwe (MA Student, Curriculum and Pedagogy)

Drs. Maureen Kendrick, Samson Nashon and Bonny Norton are supporting research capacity building in Africa through the training of African researchers interested in HIV/AIDS-related work, as well as by sharing theoretical and methodological frameworks. They are also helping their African counterparts find funding sources for their projects, something that is critical because as these three Faculty of Education researchers have found, they cannot ignore HIV/AIDS – an epidemic which directly and indirectly affects so many of their collaborators, research participants, and friends.

African graduate students working at the UBC Faculty of Education develop their own projects within their supervisors’ general program, often developing research questions with input from African counterparts and conducting fieldwork or action research in African schools. The students return to their country of origin with their UBC M.A. or Ph.D. diploma in hand, and take leadership positions at local universities or community and policy organizations. There, they educate their own students and conduct acutely critical research, develop policy, and take action.

The credentials earned at UBC give them greater credibility and enhance their leadership, which is especially important for women who may otherwise have been relegated to less influential roles. Graduates include Drs. Harriet Mutonyi, Juliet Tembe, and Shelley Jones, while Annette Tushabomwe (M.A.) and Elizabeth Namazzi (Ph.D.) are current students. Collaborating with local scholars, such as Drs. Willy Ngaka and George Openjuru (Makerere University), and Mr. Dan Ahimbisibwe (Uganda Martyrs University), is another important opportunity for capacity building.

Dr. Samson Nashon, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Pedagogy, notes that although HIV/AIDS is not at the core of his own work, he has “had a passion and interest in encouraging students who come from regions prone to the HIV/AIDS scourge to investigate how the phenomenon is impacting student learning.” For Dr. Bonny Norton, Professor and Distinguished University Scholar, Department of Language and Literacy Education (LLED), a turning point was her delivery of a keynote address at the Pan-African Conference on Reading in 2003, where the audience asked her to support African colleagues in the development of their research. Dr. Maureen Kendrick, Associate Professor in LLED, leads research projects in the area of community-supported health literacy and family literacy, areas that naturally lend themselves to studying the diffusion of HIV/AIDS information to women and youth in particular.

Researchers Bring HIV/AIDS to the Forefront of the Conversation

Bringing HIV/AIDS to the forefront of the open conversation in the classroom and beyond – whereas it previously had been kept underground – is in itself a significant impact of the research work conducted by these graduate students and their professors. Learning about HIV/AIDS and sharing their life experiences empowers women and youth. It enables them to talk back to the researchers and decision-makers who design HIV/AIDS interventions, and leads to better-informed policies and practices.

Engaging with African Institutions and Communities

Dr. Norton’s work alone has involved six post-secondary institutions and over 15 schools at the primary and secondary level, engaging hundreds of African students as a result, as well as community organizations such as Straight Talk and The AIDS Support Organization (TASO). Dr. Norton and her student, now Dr. Harriet Mutonyi, also presented a report for the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports on the mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS information into the curriculum. Dr. Kendrick’s work in the West Nile and Rakai areas of Uganda has involved women and children. Many of the women participants in the West Nile area are now involved in disseminating primary health care information in their local communities. Her work with Harriet Mutonyi, involving Ugandan youth has led to the development of alternative methodologies that provide more culturally appropriate ways of soliciting students’ experiences and understandings of HIV/AIDS.

Scholarly Visibility

Between the three of them, Drs. Kendrick, Norton and Nashon have authored more than 13 journal articles and book chapters closely related to HIV/AIDS, and presented at numerous conferences. Dr. Norton has also co-edited a 2010 book on “Language and HIV/AIDS” lauded by both the applied linguistics and the AIDS research communities.

Story by: Brigitte Gemme

Additional Reading:


Select Journal Articles and Book Chapters:

  • Kendrick, M., & Kakuru, D. (2012). Funds of Knowledge in Child-Headed Households: A Ugandan Case Study. Childhood: A Journal of Global Child Research, 19(3), 397-413. [Special issue: Children’s Interethnic Relations: Beyond Institutional Contexts].
  • Mutonyi, H., & Kendrick, M. (2011). Cartoon Drawing as a Means of Accessing What Students Know About HIV/AIDS: An Alternative Method. Visual Communication Journal, 10(2), 231-249.
  • Kendrick, M., Rogers, T., Toohey, K., Marshall, E., Mutonyi, H., Hauge, C., Siegel, M., & Rowsell, J. (2010). Experiments in visual analysis: (Re)positionings of children and youth in relation to larger sociocultural issues. In R. T. Jiménez, V. J. Risko, D. Wells Rowe, & M. K. Hundley (Eds.). 59th National Reading Conference Yearbook (pp. 395-408). National Reading Conference.
  • Kendrick, M., & Mutonyi, H. (2007). Meeting the Challenge of Health Literacy in Rural Uganda: The Critical Role of Women and Local Modes of Communication. Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, 265-283.
  • Mutonyi, H., & Kendrick, M. (2009). Ugandan students’ visual representation of HIV/AIDS knowledge. In C. Higgins & B. Norton (Eds.), Applied Linguistics in the Field: Local Knowledge and HIV/AIDS: Vol. Critical Language and Literacy Studies (pp. 38-62). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.