One of the biggest constraints to achieving education for all is the increasing number of children who cannot attend school because of the HIV pandemic. In Lesotho, CRS is implementing the Mountain Orphans and Vulnerable children Empowerment (MOVE) project to address the multiple needs of these children.
Three-quarters of Lesotho’s 1.8 million people live in the remote mountainous districts of the country, where limited communication and transportation infrastructure make it difficult to access essential services. Approximately 68% of the population live under the poverty line. The national HIV prevalence rate stands at 23.5% (get updated info), ranking Lesotho at the third highest level globally. The effects of the alarmingly high HIV prevalence rate have wreaked havoc on the country on almost every level.
Perhaps the most profound effect has been on the children. The total number of orphans due to HIV-related illnesses is estimated at 180,000. By 2010, orphans are expected to account for more than 25% of all children in Lesotho. Many children are dropping out of school to care for ill family members or to head households themselves. An overwhelming number of these children are not receiving the care and support they so desperately need.
A Rights-Based, Multi-Sectoral Approach
CRS’ MOVE project was designed to respond to these needs. It seeks to improve access and equity for vulnerable and marginalized populations, one of CRS’ strategic priorities in the education sector. The project, implemented in partnership with the Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference Commission for Justice and Peace, the Clinton Foundation, Partners in Health, and Mission Aviation Fellowship, takes a rights-based, multi-sectoral approach. This means that the project not only addresses education, but also the food security, nutrition, care and support, and protection of vulnerable children.
To encourage 2,000 orphans and vulnerable children to attend school and do so without being discriminated against, uniforms, shoes, and hygiene kits are provided. Seeds, tools and fruit trees given to vulnerable households ensure that children eat three meals a day and have access to important nutrients. Trainings for traditional chiefs, local councils, teachers, and community-based organizations help to raise awareness of children’s rights and create an environment of care and support. Peer education programs help to reduce the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.
The results since the project’s start in 200X are promising. A recent evaluation indicated that school attendance has increased. Children report that generally their caregivers are now supportive of their education, whereas before the MOVE project children were often obliged to perform household chores rather than attend school. Discrimination in schools is on the decline because children now have school uniforms and hygiene kits. Community members report that their attitudes about HIV and AIDS have changed, and their knowledge about children’s rights has increased.
Community members are also continuing the new gardening techniques they have learned. Children now eat between two and three meals every day, as their caregivers now have increased food supplies as a result of these gardens.
One orphan from Bobete village noted, “I did not know we children have rights too. Now we know we do. If not for MOVE, I still would be herding cows.” The MOVE project is evidence that multi-sectoral strategies are key to educating and ensuring the basic rights of orphans and vulnerable children.
For more information, contact Eric Eversmann (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Anne Sellers (email@example.com), CRS Education Technical Advisors.