Academic journal article Childhood Education

Responding to the Special Needs of Children: Educating HIV/AIDS Orphans in Kenya

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Responding to the Special Needs of Children: Educating HIV/AIDS Orphans in Kenya

Article excerpt

In America, as elsewhere in the developing world, education is viewed as the most prominent public policy issue, involving an interplay of national budget allocation and foreign assistance. In Kenya, education is considered the pillar of all development activities (Odiwour, 2000). The guiding philosophy for Kenya's education is the belief that every Kenyan, no matter his or her socioeconomic status, has the inalienable right to basic education (National Development Plan, 1997). Consequently, Kenya spends 40 percent of its official budget on education (United Nations Development Program, 2003).

While Fagerlind and Saha (1989) stressed the complexities affecting the link between education and developmental, more recent studies have highlighted the long-term positive developmental effects of education (Barnett, 1995; Haveman & Wolfe, 1995; UNICEF, 2003). As enrollments in schools continue to rise, some researchers are predicting an increased demands for education as well as a need to serve children who present increasingly diverse needs (Hernandez, 1995; Odiwour, 2000). Developing countries that are faced with the HIV/AIDS pandemic have additional challenges to address. How does Kenya, a country faced with economic, social, and health challenges, educate and care for those "special needs" children who have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic?

The purpose of this article is threefold. First, it will provide a brief overview of facts about the spread of HIV/AIDS. Second, it will characterize HIV/AIDS orphans and discuss indigenous initiatives in Kenya to educate and care for those children. Third, the article will describe the Nyumbani Children's Center, a successful comprehensive model for best practice in responding to the special needs of HIV/AIDS orphans in Kenya.

The Global Context of HIV/AIDS

The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to claim millions of lives around the world, generating a serous humanitarian crisis that threatens to transcend all other health problems (International Crisis Group, 2001). Those most affected by the pandemic include children orphaned or otherwise burdened by its devastating toll. An estimated 3.2 million children worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS, with 2,000 new cases each day; by the end of 1999, 13.2 million children under the age of 15 worldwide had lost their mothers or both parents to AIDS (UNAIDS, 2002b). Additional estimates by the Pediatric AIDS Foundation indicate that an estimated 5.6 million children will have died of the epidemic and over 25 million will be orphaned by the year 2010 Pediatric Aids Foundation, 2003).

One of the biggest misconceptions about HIV/AIDS is that children born to HIV/AIDS mothers are automatically infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS (pediatric AIDS Foundation, 2003). These children carry the mother's antibodies and thus are not necessarily HIV-positive. Current medical advances confirm that two doses of a drug called Nevirapine administered to an HIV-positive pregnant woman can successfully prevent transmission of the HIV virus to the child and reduces the chance of the infant being born with AIDS to 47 percent (Pediatric AIDS Foundation, 2003). This information is both encouraging and crucial for educators and caregivers, especially in Africa, where one of the largely unarticulated consequences of the HIV/ AIDS pandemic is the stigma associated with the disease. Children whose mothers are infected or have died face discrimination even if they are not infected themselves. This discrimination often results in the children being denied the special attention and care that they desperately need.

The Regional Context of HIV/AIDS--Africa

The statistics on HIV/AIDS infections indicate that 26 million adults and 2.6 million children are infected with HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS, 2002a). In addition, about 95 percent of all AIDS orphans live in Africa, where more than one child in every 10 has lost a parent to AIDS (UNAIDS, 2002b). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.