HIV/AIDS Hinders Children’s Access to Education, UNDP Official Says
Children who lose one or both parents to HIV/AIDS are unlikely to remain in school and finish their education, Robert Greener, senior economic adviser at the United Nations Development Programme, said at the World Bank's Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics in South Africa recently, the Inter Press Service reports.
According to Greener, HIV/AIDS hinders "knowledge and skills transmission from one generation to the next, which, over time, results in the loss of human capital." He said, "This also has an impact on economic growth. Economies need educated and skilled people." Children who live in communities with an HIV prevalence of more than 10% go to school for a half a year less than children in other communities, according to Inter Press Service. Natalia Trofimenko of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy said that children who live in female-headed households are more likely to remain in and complete school. Trofimenko said, "In African households, it is usually the father who decides whether a child goes to school or not. However, it is the mother who decides how long the child will enjoy an education."
According to Aparnaa Somanathan, a World Bank health economist, HIV/AIDS more negatively affects the education of girls than boys because the eldest female child is usually pulled out of school, especially after the death of a mother. Samwel Otieno of Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture also said that girls' education is likely to end when they are married at an early age. Trofimenko added that financial constraints related to HIV/AIDS treatment can prevent children from completing school. However, she added that it is vital to provide HIV-positive adults with antiretroviral drugs. "Postponing the death of parents is crucial," Trofimenko said, adding, "When extending the life of the parents, you not only improve the child's overall quality of life but you also increase his or her chance to complete school. This has a positive impact on a child's life later on."
According to U.N. figures, the number of AIDS orphans worldwide has increased from 8.5 million in 2000 to 14 million in 2006. About 80% of them live in Africa (Mannak, Inter Press Service, 6/12).