Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy, HIV/AIDS in Africa, in his keynote lecture at the 11th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, highlighted the plight of AIDS orphans in Africa “…millions of orphans wander the landscape of Africa. These lonely youngsters are bewildered, angry, sad, frantically seeking nurture and affection, often hungry, homeless, significant numbers living with grandmothers or in child-headed households, countless numbers unable to go to school, a school being the single most valuable and supportive environment they could possibly have … unable to go to school because they can’t afford the school fees or the uniforms or the books. And when you lose your parents, who then hands down the knowledge and values from generation to generation?
Two child-headed families in Limpopo Province South Africa
Similarly, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, has highlighted the negative impact of HIV/AIDS upon education and women: “As AIDS strikes at the lifeline of society that women represent, a vicious cycle develops. Poor women are becoming even less economically secure as a result of AIDS, often deprived of rights to housing, property or inheritance, or even adequate health services. In rural areas, AIDS has caused the collapse of coping systems that for centuries have helped women to feed their families during times of drought and famine - leading in turn to family break-ups, migration, and yet greater risk of HIV infection. …..As AIDS forces girls to drop out of school - whether they are forced to take care of a sick relative, run the household, or help support the Family - they fall deeper into poverty. Their Children in turn are less likely to attend school, and more likely to become infected. Thus, society pays many times over the deadly price on the impact of woman of AIDS.
42 million school children in sub-Saharan Africa are not enrolled in school; many children cannot afford to go or stay in primary school. The current education system in Africa, plagued by a lack of funds, teachers, textbooks, and transparency, is failing a large number of children. Clearly, innovative supplementary strategies are urgently needed; Open Schools Worldwide “School-in-a-Bag” is a strategic intervention which provides quality, relevant education tailored to the needs of out-of-school children, child-headed families, street children and other vulnerable children whose education and future is being crippled by poverty and HIV/AIDS. This educational initiative is freely and openly available to all children in need irrespective of their color or creed. It is not an alternative to school, but aims to get the children back into school and then continues to support and supplement their learning activities. The materials address both the educational and psychosocial needs of the children.