Contrasting Primary School Outcomes of Paternal and Maternal Orphans in Manicaland, Zimbabwe: HIV/AIDS and Weaknesses in the Extended Family System

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Author(s): Nyamukapa C, Gregson S

Year: 2003

Fewer orphans are enrolled in school than other children but the extent of disadvantage-after allowing for their older average age- is small in most countries. Cross country analyses show variation in the size and strength of associations between orphanhood and education according to the form of parental loss experienced. However, maternal death is usually more detrimental to children's education chances than paternal death and double orphans are typically the least likely to be in school. These differences are not fully accounted for by differences in household socio-economic circumstances. In a case study in Manicaland, Zimbabwe, we found that children who had lost their mothers at an early age were less likely to have completed primary school than other children but that the reverse was true for paternal orphans. These results remained valid even after controlling for other factors that influence primary school completion, including child's sex and age, economic status of household, and characteristics of household head. In an in-depth study of the extended family system in Manicaland, we identified factors that support the education of paternal orphans and reduce the school chances of maternal orphans. The former include the increased role and greater motivation of surviving mothers and more extensive involvement of relatives. The latter include low priority given by surviving fathers and step-mothers to the child's education and more frequent residence with more distant relatives. The extended family and Government and NGO programmes are less likely to provide support when the natural father is still alive. The extended family system provides the most conducive and sustainable context for orphans' upbringing but is becoming seriously fragmented. Care is needed to ensure that initiatives intended to assist orphans support and build upon rather than undermine extended family arrangements.