Educational and Psychosocial Challenges of Orphan and Vulnerable Children

Educational and Psychosocial Challenges of Orphan and Vulnerable Children

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1.1 Background of the study

Orphanhood and vulnerability of children are now the greatest threats to child development in many parts of the world. These problems threatened children in many ways and different challenges caused by orphanhood and vulnerability are frequently mentioned. Africa Child Policy Forum(ACPF, 2014), Berry and Guthrie(2003) and Abashula, Nega and Tariku(2014)acknowledged that orphanhood and vulnerability are threats to children which are frequently accompanied with multidimensional problems including educational, psychological and social problems that can further expose children to less school enrolment/lack of access to education, physical and psychological

abuse, lack of love and affection , negative community’s  attitude towards them, poor

psychological well-being and poor social interaction.

United Nations Program for HIV and AIDS and Catholic Relief Service (USAID & CRS, 2008) which have dealt with education programming for Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) noted that orphans and vulnerable children stand in particular need of an educational intervention as they are amongst the children most in danger of becoming infected with HIV due to economic hardship, reduced parental care and protection and increased susceptibility to abuse and exploitation. These factors contribute to the barriers orphans and vulnerable children face when pursuing an education. These barriers can be categorized as: within the child, through impaired health, including impaired development, and through emotional stress; within the family, including the child but


adding the dynamics of the family’s function as a group; within the community; and

within the school system and the school.

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2007) noted that serious barriers to school enrollment include the direct cost to households, which is not just school fees but notebooks, educational access to school supplies, and compulsory uniforms and orphan and vulnerable children are even less likely to be in school and more likely to fall behind or drop out, limiting their abilities and prospects for a better life.

According to the US president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR, 2012) ,

OVC programs should   support efforts to reduce educational disparities and barriers to

access among school-age children through sustainable “systemic” intervention and by ensuring children have a safe school environment and complete their primary education, promoting access to early childhood development (ECD) programs, ensuring personnel create child-friendly and HIV/AIDS- and gender-sensitive classrooms, strengthening

community- school relationships, including partnering with out-of-school programming and OVC programs should prioritize psychosocial interventions that build on existing resources and place and maintain children in stable and affectionate environments through: parents and family support programs, peer and social group interventions and community caregiver support.

Different  scholars  discussed  that  the  impacts  of  vulnerability  on  children  are

complex and affect the children’s psychological and social development. From these

Fredriksan and Kandours (2004), stated that, orphan and vulnerable children might have

inhibited development of emotional intelligence, and life skills such as communications,


decision making, negotiation skills etc. Sengendo and Nambi (1997) reported that in Uganda many orphans were showing signs of stress and trauma. Many, orphans may

become withdrawn and passive or develop sadness, anger, fear, and antisocial behavior’s and become violent or depressed (World Bank, 2004). Orphan and vulnerable children may experience additional trauma from lack of nurturance, guidance, and a sense of attachment, which may impede their socialization process (through damaged self-confidence, social competencies, motivation, and so forth). Children often find it difficult to express their fear, grievance, and anger effectively. In addition, when willing to express their feelings, they may find it difficult to find a sensitive time (UNAIDS, 2001).

Many orphaned children continue to experience emotional problems and little is being done in this area of emotional support. There are several reasons. First, there is a lack of adequate information on the nature and magnitude of the problem; secondly, there is a cultural belief that children do not have emotional problems and therefore there is a lack of attention from adults. Thirdly, since psychological problems are not always obvious, many adults in charge of orphans are not able to identify them. However, even where the problem may have been identified, there is a lack of knowledge of how to handle it appropriately. In many cases children are punished for showing their negative emotions, thereby adding to their pain. In schools, there is an obvious lack of appropriate training of teachers in identifying psychological and social problems and therefore offering individual or group attention (Sengendo & Nambi, 1997).

In  Nigeria orphans are at increased risk of losing opportunities for school, growth, development, nutrition, and shelter. Moreover, with the death of a parent, children


experience profound loss, grief, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness with long-term consequences such as psychosomatic disorders, chronic depression, low self-esteem, learning disabilities, and disturbed social behavior. This is frequently compounded by

“self-stigma” children blaming themselves for their parents’ illness and death (Afewerk, 2013).

Another study which dealt with the psychological distress of non-AIDS and AIDS orphan adolescent in  ABUJA concluded that large proportion of orphan and vulnerable children are having psychological problems that can affect their present and future life (Hiwot, Fentie, Lakew & Wondosen, 2011).

 Nigeria, like many signatories to the United Nations Millennium Goals, pledged to waive all school fees for primary school children by 2015, meeting the MDG, and  Nigerian government has formulated polices and guidelines hat specify the standards of the services provided to OVC, the roles and responsibilities of stake holders participate in giving services and supports for these children. The main policies, plan of actions and guidelines available in  Nigeria regarding OVC are: Child right Convention adopted by  Nigerian government, Developmental Social Welfare Policy, National Plan of Action for Children, National OVC Plan of Action and Guideline on Alternative Child Care program. These policies, plan of actions and guidelines are meant to create conducive and supportive environment for proper growth and development of the OVC. To this end, the policies, the strategies and the guidelines have paid attention to the need for psychosocial support, education and vocational training, health support shelter, economic strengthening, social protection of the children (Save the Children UK, 2007). However, these strategies, guidelines and policies alone have not yet brought the


expected change in minimizing challenges of orphan and vulnerable children and as a result, it is important to assess all possible challenges of OVC in order to implement those strategies, guidelines and policies accordingly.

In  ABUJA, AMAC-city women, children and youth affairs office reports that, there are more than 13,000 orphan and vulnerable children falling under different challenges. From these all, in   01 there are more than 500 orphans and vulnerable children registered at women, children and youth affairs office and they are getting assistance from different non-governmental organizations. But still they are in complain and most of them are susceptible to school dropouts, poor social skill, psychological problems and some of them are low achievers even though they attend school. Thus it is important to assess possible challenges qualitatively to come up with alternative solutions for these problems.

1.2 Statement of the problem

So much has been said about challenges of AIDS orphans but drug addicts, sick, abusive abandoned or neglect, living in extreme poverty, living with a disability, affected by parental conflicts, malnourished due to poverty, HIV-positive, and finally, those marginalized, stigmatized, or even discriminated against) are not addressed well. As a result, these children may face educational and psycho social challenges

Scholars such as Feseha (2003) and Afework (2013) conducted research in connection with educational challenges of AIDS orphaned children and psychological wellbeing between orphan and non-orphan children in  ABUJA. However, to the


best of my knowledge none of these studies address OVC’S educational and psychosocial challenges in  Nigeria specifically in  ABUJA.

Generally this study tries to answer the following research questions

1.   What are educational challenges of orphan and vulnerable children?

2.   What are psychological challenges of orphan and vulnerable children?

3.   What are social challenges of orphan and vulnerable children?

1.3 Objectives of the study

1.3.1 General objective

The general objective of this study is to assess educational and psychosocial challenges of orphan and vulnerable children in AMAC  01,  ABUJA.

1.3.2 Specific objectives

Ø  To point out educational challenges of orphan and vulnerable children.

Ø  To identify major psychological challenges of orphan and vulnerable children.

Ø  To find out social challenges of orphan and vulnerable children.

1.4. Significance of the study

This study is significant in essence that it tries to address the current challenges of orphan and vulnerable children in the area of AMAC-city   01,  ABUJA. Specifically, it is believed that the study may have importance for the following groups. It may:


v  Help the communities of the   to be aware of challenges of orphan and vulnerable children and to come up with their solutions.

v  Help the   women, children and youth affairs office to reduce challenges of children.

v  Help other researchers for further researches which are related to this issue.

v  Help to contribute new findings to the existing knowledge and experience of challenges of orphan and vulnerable children in the school particularly.

1.5. Limitation of the study

The researcher attempted to include current guardians of orphan and vulnerable children as a participant but some of them were unwilling and other orphan and vulnerable children did not have current guardian

1.6. Delimitation of the study

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