Educational Outcomes of Children Orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe

Educational Outcomes of Children Orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe

Jonathan Chitiyo, Lawrence Meda, Jona Masiya
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9567-1.ch015
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HIV/AIDS was first reported in Africa in the early 1980s, and it has now become one of the most devastating epidemics in the history of Africa. It is responsible for unprecedentedly high mortality rates with a majority of people dying in their prime years. Like many other Sub-Saharan countries, Zimbabwe has been hit hard by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. One of the many negative consequences of this pandemic is orphanhood. The number of children who are orphans as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa continues to increase as the condition continues to spread viciously and claim lives. Most of these children are school-aged and they encounter a number of challenges in their education. These students have exceptional learning needs which requires education to be tailored to their immediate needs. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a detailed discussion of the educational challenges faced by children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe. Recommendations to meet or support the needs of these children are also provided.
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Human immunodeficiency (HIV) is a virus which leads to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The HIV virus is present in bodily fluids of an infected person (i.e., blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk) and is transmitted from one person to another via sexual contact and blood-to blood contact (Heward, 2013). Millions of people of all ages and ethnicities across the globe are affected by HIV/AIDS (Kharsany & Karim, 2016). According to the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) (2019), in 2019, there were 38 million people living with HIV, 680 000 died as a result of the condition, and 27, 5 million people were on antiretroviral drugs globally. The infection and death rates are highest among people with ages ranging from 15-49 years with women representing almost half of the adults who are infected or who die. As a result of such staggering statistics, HIV/AIDS is regarded as the most devastating epidemic in recent history (Whiteside, 2002).

Of all the continents, Africa bears the brunt of this pandemic, with the continent being home to the highest number of infections (Whiteside, 2002). Of the 38 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally, 25. 5 million are living in Africa with 1 in every 20 adults infected. In addition, Africa is home to 70% of the poorest people in the world, with the region holding the lowest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, and research shows that there is a relationship between poverty and HIV/AIDS (Whiteside, 2002). Poverty is a result of inequitable and lack of resources, assets, and sustainable skill sets. Consequently, because of poverty that is rife, most people adopt a survivalist approach to get basic needs and some engage in risky sexual behaviors which can lead to contracting the HIV/AIDS infection.

Existing research has shown that the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa has been primarily through unsafe heterosexual relations, and commercial sex work with a concomitant epidemic in children through vertical transmission (Kharsany & Karim, 2016). Infection rates are high among young women (15 -25 years) and older men (30-50 years) (Whiteside, 2002). Women are disproportionately affected accounting for the majority of the total number of people living with the virus. A report by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) revealed that sexual relations between young women and older men is the most common HIV/AIDS transmission route in Africa (UNICEF, 2020). In addition, studies from Uganda and Zimbabwe have revealed that young married women with partners who were 16 or more years older than them are at three times greater risk of HIV/AIDS infection than those with partners less than 15 years older than them (Schaefer et al., 2017). Young women who are victims of spousal abuse have also been found to be infected with HIV/AIDS more than young women who have not experienced any form of violence (Teitelman, Ratcliffe, Ditchter, & Sullivan., 2008).

The countries with the highest number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in Africa are Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya (SOS Children’s Villages, 2019). Among these countries, Zimbabwe might be experiencing the brutal impact of the pandemic the most (Cuadros et al., 2019; Lopman et al., 2007; Stillwaggon, 2002).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Orphanhood: A condition of being without living parents.

Orphan: A child under the age of 15 with no living parents.

Learning Support: Resources, strategies, and practices that provide physical, social and emotional, and intellectual supports for all students to have equal opportunities for success in school.

Exceptional Learning Needs: Students who need education to be individualized or tailored to their unique needs.

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: A condition caused by HIV that damages the immune system.

Child Maltreatment: A term that includes all forms of child abuse.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): A virus that attacks the body’s immune system.

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