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Sunday 12 February 2006
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AFRICA: HRW highlights impact of AIDS on schooling

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  WHO/TDR/S.Lindsay

When education becomes a luxury

JOHANNESBURG, 10 October (PLUSNEWS) - The impact of HIV/AIDS on school-aged children in three African countries has been highlighted in a new report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday.

In 'Letting Them Fail: Government Neglect and the Right to Education for Children Affected by AIDS', HRW charged that government disregard of millions of orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) was fuelling school dropout levels across East and Southern Africa.

Research showed that while overall school enrolment rates had risen to approximately 66 percent on the continent, children affected by AIDS were being left behind.

"AIDS-affected children are failing to go to school, and it's because their governments are failing them. These children have lost enough. They should not be turned away from school and lose their right to an education as well," said Jonathan Cohen, a researcher with HRW's HIV/AIDS Programme, in a statement.

Besides dropping out of school to perform household labour or mourn when their parents died of AIDS-related illnesses, the children also suffered discrimination in accessing education from the moment their families were afflicted by the disease.

While some countries had abolished primary school fees, OVCs were repeatedly refused admission if they could not afford to pay for books, uniforms and other school-related expenses.

"Governments bear the ultimate responsibility to protect children when their parents no longer can," Cohen remarked.

Churches and community-based organisations (CBOs) sometimes provided critical support to OVCs, but these groups frequently operated with little government support or recognition.

"Community-based organisations and churches are desperately trying the fill the void left by governments," Cohen confirmed.

HRW warned that the current situation exposed orphans to a lifelong cycle of poverty and abuse, as many school dropouts faced a high risk of sexual exploitation, hazardous labour and increased rates of HIV infection.

"Governments must make education a priority to break this vicious cycle," Cohen stressed.


Recent AFRICA Reports
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 270, 10 February 2006,  10/Feb/06
Year in Review 2005 - Uneven progress in treatment provision,  3/Feb/06
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 269, 3 February 2006,  3/Feb/06
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 268, 27 January 2006,  27/Jan/06
Concern as MSF starts handover of HIV/AIDS treatment,  24/Jan/06
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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