The impact of HIV/AIDS on the children’s right to education in Uganda: A case study of Wakiso District
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The HIV/AIDS pandemic that was first realized in Central Uganda in the early 1980s has dealt a heavy blow on families and entire communities in Uganda, leaving in its trail millions of orphans and affected children. As a result, the children’s right to education—among other rights—has been greatly violated. This study set out to assess the extent to which HIV/AIDS has impacted the right to education of children in the Wakiso district of Uganda. Particularly, it sought to answer the following questions: How efficacious are Uganda’s current laws and policies in protecting the right to education of children affected by HIV/AIDS? What are the conditions resulting from HIV/AIDS that have affected children’s access to education? What are the gender implications of HIV/AIDS on the right to education of the affected children? What interventions have nongovernmental organizations put in place to counter AIDS-related conditions that affect children’s access to education? Following a qualitative, exploratory research design, the study employed in-depth interviews and focus group discussions to gather data from caretakers of AIDS-affected children, teachers, NGOs and the children themselves. The study found that there are a number of legal, policy and institutional mechanisms in place both internationally and nationally to deal with the educational rights and needs of children in Uganda. However, although the said legal framework is competent to deal with the problems of children generally, it does not address the special conditions of the children affected by HIV/AIDS. The policy and institutional mechanisms are also wanting. The study unearthed a wide range of conditions arising out of HIV/AIDS that affect children’s access to education. These included, inter alia, inadequate household incomes that fail to meet the cost of education; domestic chores that keep the affected children too engaged at home; psychological stress, stigma, discrimination and a general lack of psychosocial support. These findings revealed a very telling gender implication—that when HIV/AIDS strikes, it affects the girl-child in a disproportionately great manner; and that the female relatives bear the greatest burden. On the question of interventions, the study found that NGOs provide both direct and indirect assistance to the affected children and families, especially in the areas of education and health. This effort has supplemented government initiatives whose cumulative effect has been a responsive policy and a favourable social-economic environment for effectively addressing the problems of vulnerable children. It is concluded, among others, that the existing legal and policy framework governing children, AIDS and the right to education does not address the needs of HIV/AIDS affected children. There are no provisions to alleviate the burden on the NGOs and caretakers that have been left to shoulder all the responsibility for the HIV/AIDS affected children under their care.