Orphans' household circumstances and access to education in a maturing HIV epidemic in eastern Zimbabwe

  • Constance A. Nyamukapa
  • Geoff Foster
  • Simon Gregson


Levels of orphanhood and patterns of different forms of orphanhood (namely, double, paternal and maternal) will change as an HIV epidemic progresses. The implications of different forms of orphanhood for children's development will also change as the cumulative impact of a period of sustained high morbidity and mortality takes its toll on the adult population. In this article we describe patterns of orphanhood and orphans' educational experience in populations in eastern Zimbabwe subject to a major HIV epidemic which is maturing into its endemic phase. Levels of orphanhood have grown recently but rates of maternal and double orphanhood, in particular, are likely to continue to increase for several years to come. Orphans are found disproportionately in rural, female-, elderly- and adolescent-headed households. Each of these is a risk factor for more extreme poverty. The over-representation in rural areas could reflect urban-rural migration around the time of death of the parent due to loss of income and the high cost of living in towns. Over-representation in female-, elderly- and adolescent-headed households reflects the predisposition of men to seek employment in towns, estates and mines; the higher level of paternal orphanhood; the reluctance of second wives to take responsibility for their predecessors' children and stress in the extended family system. The death of the mother was found to have a strong detrimental effect on a child's chances of completing primary school education-the strength of effect increasing with time since maternal death. The death of the father had no detrimental effect, despite the fact that paternal orphans were typically found in the poorest households.

African Journal of Social Work Vol.18(2) 2003: 7-32