There are more than 13.8 million children globally between 0-17 years who have lost their parents to AIDS. Lesotho has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDs. This disease has rendered a lot of children orphans leaving more than 200,0000 orphans in Lesotho. As a result of this, orphans are unable to return to school but rather work or beg for survival. Educational support for orphans in Lesotho is important as this allows them to have better chances in life.
Disadvantages of Orphans in Lesotho
Many orphaned children take the roles of their parents in heading households and finding a source of food to survive rather than studying. Also, due to the absence of parental care, some orphans develop behavioral problems.
Orphans, when taken to live with other people often end up in poor living conditions such as poor hygiene, poor nutrition and lack of school materials. This ends up impacting negatively their education and calls for concern.
Although orphans may find it difficult to enroll themselves in school, basic education is necessary. Pre-primary education can yield high returns but despite this fact, little funding from the national budget goes toward education in some countries. In Lesotho, the educational budget was less than 1% some years back.
Educational Initiatives for Orphans in Lesotho
Free access to pre-primary education for every child is Sustainable Development Goal 4.2. In Lesotho, primary education was made free and compulsory in 2010 for all children 6 to 13 years of age. Also, a number of programs aimed at protecting the rights of orphans and vulnerable children in Lesotho emerged. These programs have undergone implementation and are now producing positive outcomes. The programs target educational support, psychological assistance, home support and food security.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program through the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provides funding for girls’ education to improve access to education from the early stage of education to completion. They further help to improve financial skills and connect them to employment opportunities. This program focuses on orphans, children or caregivers living with HIV and those at risk of contracting HIV. They also collaborate with other USAID-supported initiatives in the area of education, health and economic strength to enhance the resilience of young people.
The Better Early Learning and Development at Scale Initiative
An initiative, the Better Early Learning and Development at Scale initiative (BELDS) in Lesotho focused on improving the delivery of early childhood educational environment and services.
The Global Partnership for Education and UNICEF have partnered with the BELDS initiative to ensure proper planning, financing and implementation of the early childhood education program.
The Roger Foundation School Readiness Initiative started in June 2020 and should last until December 2025 aims to ensure that vulnerable children in Lesotho have access to pre-primary education and early childhood development. It is expected to reach at least 60,000 children in 800 schools. In addition, the Roger Federer Foundation developed a tablet for offline use. This tablet, called the early learning kiosk, helps teachers in early childhood education to access beginner topics.
HIV/AIDS has turned a lot of children into orphans and also made them attain adult roles. However, various organizations have made education more easily accessible to them, even when it may have become the last priority. These initiatives not only focus on education for orphans but also on supporting them psychologically and financially in their communities and homes.
– Chidinma Nwoha