Who is “Vulnerable”? School Enrollment among Foster-Children and Orphans in West and Southern Africa

Emily Smith-Greenaway, Pennsylvania State University
Jessica Heckert, Pennsylvania State University

School enrollment remains low in sub-Saharan Africa. The current literature concludes that foster-children and orphans living with non-parental caregivers are particularly vulnerable to low enrollment. Does the context of the AIDS epidemic influence how vulnerable foster-children and orphans are? Given that the AIDS epidemic disproportionately affects Southern Africa, the greater burden on caregivers to care for orphans while maintaining fostering obligations may increase children’s vulnerability in this region. Conversely, in West Africa where AIDS is less severe, caregivers may be able to better care for foster-children and orphans. In the current study, we evaluate if the severity of the AIDS epidemic conditions the likelihood of foster-children’s and orphans’ school enrollment. Results from our 23 country assessment show that foster-children’s and orphans’ school enrollment is not universally low, but varies by region. The results suggest the severity of the AIDS epidemic is challenging the traditional family system in some African contexts.

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Presented in Poster Session 5