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Orphaned and vulnerable children in Zambia: The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on basic education for children at risk

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Sue Robson


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Background There is an emerging corpus of work on the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on education in sub-Saharan Africa. This mainly employs demographic models to make projections of student enrolments and teacher requirements. However, there is a paucity of research in basic schools to examine the experiences of AIDS-affected teachers and students. Purpose This study explored staff and student perceptions of the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the education of affected children in high-prevalence districts of the Copperbelt province of Zambia. The impact of the epidemic on student enrolment, attendance and completion rates, and on the quality of the learning experience, was investigated. Programme description and sample The Ministry of Education assisted with the selection of districts in the Copperbelt Province with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS (34% to 39%). Four government schools with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates and two community schools in impoverished communities were selected. Design and methods Statistical data from each school were made available. Six focus groups were held with District Education Board Personnel, NUT officials and the Copperbelt Special Education Standards Officer. Six interviews were held with school management teams. A total of 72 teachers and 64 students responded to questionnaires; 36 students also took part in four focus groups, each involving gender balanced groups of six to eight students from grades 4-8. Results The study provides information on the impact of the epidemic on basic education that has not previously been documented in Zambia and may assist the strategic planning and management of basic schools. A positive outcome of this study was that students, teachers and other professionals freely discussed issues concerning HIV/AIDS and its impact on education in a context where such issues are usually met with silence or denial. Conclusions The challenge for the Zambian Ministry of Education and the international community is not only to provide the right to basic education, but also to strengthen schools as inclusive and supportive communities. For students, this might focus on provision of alternative and more flexible opportunities for participation and learning, access to health and life skills education and appropriate counselling and support. For teachers, professional development opportunities to support the management of large classes and curriculum development - e.g. in the areas of life skills and vocational skills - are implicated.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Robson S, Sylvester KB

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Educational Research

Year: 2007

Volume: 49

Issue: 3

Pages: 259-272

ISSN (print): 0013-1881

ISSN (electronic): 1469-5847

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/00131880701550508

Notes: Special Issue: Supporting Vulnerable Children and Young People


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