|© UNICEF Zimbabwe|
|Many children attending school feel too unwell to learn.|
HARARE, Zimbabwe 8 July 2004—Almost a million children in Zimbabwe have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Faced with extreme poverty and forced to look after themselves, it’s little wonder many have dropped out of school.
Their biggest problem is finding enough to eat every day, while school fees this year have increased by 1000 per cent. But not going to school makes them more vulnerable to abuse and less able to cope in the future.
UNICEF, in partnership with community organizations, is trying to reach these children. Giving them emotional support and counselling is as important as getting them back to school.
“If we don’t deal with the emotional part it means they could be grieving for the next 30 years. They might have unanswered questions and a whole lot of issues that will backfire for society in general,” says Varaidzo Nyadenga of UNICEF partner Fact Mutare.
About half of the children in this school have been orphaned by AIDS. Even though they attend class many are unable to learn properly because poverty and disease have made them unwell.
Headmaster Liverson Mutombeni says the children often have to care for each other at home.
“They don’t feel well and they are not morally well because they don’t have that love or parental care. It affects children in such a way that their ability to learn might be reduced to 75 per cent or even to nothing because they become depressed,” he says.
UNICEF has managed to help around 40,000 children get back to school – but with an estimated one in five children becoming orphaned by 2010, much more needs to be done.