Equipping Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) With Life Skills Education

Equipping Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) With Life Skills Education

Vuyiswa Sandrah Nyathi
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8896-3.ch003
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Globally, children are experiencing instability, poverty, anxiety, and mental stress through exposure to unfavourable conditions. They lack protection of their rights as human beings and yet most nations are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) 1999. Children need protection against child labour, domestic violence, commercial sexual exploitation, early child marriage, harmful traditional practices. The nation, community, and family are the major duty bearers in child protection. Orphans and vulnerable children have remained susceptible to abuse and other harmful practices due to lack of protection by duty bearers. This chapter anchors on how such children can be empowered through life skills in order to reduce vulnerability. The chapter concludes by suggesting strategies that assist vulnerable children in facing and coping with life challenges.
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Vulnerable children are generally those children at most risk in society. These are children in special circumstances, children from disjointed households or children needing special protection. USAID (2004) states that children can be described as vulnerable due to the effects of illness, poverty, conflict, disease and accidents. The most common causes of death for a large number of people, especially in Africa being the Acquired immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Another huge cause of death of loved ones is the Corona Virus Disease 19 (COVID 19). These pandemics in most cases have accounted for the death of both the mother and the father in a family leaving the children with no one to take care of them. These children become susceptible to stigmatisation and discrimination by close relatives who might then refuse taking their custodian in fear of contacting the deadly viruses or being stigmatised by community members. Such tendencies are then liable to the creation of child headed families, which expose young children to taking up the responsibility of looking after other younger siblings, fending for the needs of these children in areas such as food, shelter, clothing, education and general upkeep. Without capacity of providing financially and emotionally for other children, these child-headed families become vulnerable in a number of ways. They become liable to suffering from physical, mental and emotional stress. Even those orphaned children left in the custodian of extended families might suffer physical abuse, sexual abuse, child labour and emotional abuse. When such exposures are left unabated they might lead to traumatic stress disorders, which could manifest itself as crime, alcohol and drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, child marriage, child prostitution, depression, street children and other socially unaccepted behaviours. Orphans and vulnerable children miss the best interests of the child principle that allows the child to participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their lives. Vulnerable children are likely to suffer neglect, being abandoned, orphaned, destitute, abused, refugee and displaced or disabled, affected or infected by Human Immunodeficiency Virus or get Acquired immunodeficiency Syndrome, live in an armed conflict zone, or come from very poor households.

To mitigate against such vulnerability, children need to be empowered with life skills. Life Skills are competencies learned in sequential steps and they help individuals to function well in their environment (WHO, 2001). They develop through carrying out activities or a set of tasks developed through the acquisition of experience and or training, which require more than just knowing about the subject. Such skills help the child to be able to adapt to situations that are demanding and challenging in his or her life in order to expose positive behaviour and deal with these situations effectively as they affect everyday life. For orphans and vulnerable children lacking support from parents or guardians, equipping them with psychosocial and interpersonal skills would be of benefit in making informed decisions, effectively communicating with others and developing self-management skills for a healthy and productive life style. Children equipped with life skills collectively gain knowledge, attitudes and skills that enable them to behave in healthy manners and have the actual desire to do so. They become aware of what to do and how to do it. Existing knowledge and skills acquired translate into safe and adaptive action. The children portray positive traits such as being achievers, problem solvers, creativity, competences, motivation, persistence and successfulness.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Participatory Methods: A form of a reflective teaching approach also known as an interactive teaching method or learner-centered teaching method.

Child Abuse: It is any form of ill-treatment by an adult or other person that can harm, violent or threaten the safety of the child including their well-being, dignity, and development.

Children’s Rights: Are the human rights of children that give them special rights that protect their vulnerability to threats, exclusions, and discrimination.

NGO: Non-Governmental Organisations.

Supportive Environment: Is one that is able to respond to children’s needs, provide opportunities for learning growth and learning in all developmental spheres.

Behaviour Change: Is a process that involves altering the way one acts and reacts, embracing and upholding positive health behaviours or discarding harmful ones.

Teaching: Imparting knowledge and skills.

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