Schools Teach Survival to Africa's AIDS Orphans
February 28, 2006
"I want to grow spinach and beetroot for my brother and sisters but I don't know how," said Cinisile Mamba, a 13-year-old in Swaziland, as she pulled weeds from what she hopes will be fertile soil. Both her parents died of AIDS before they could teach her to farm. Now, left to care for her three younger siblings, she is determined to learn.
In her lowlands community, Mamba and 24 other AIDS orphans are attending a junior farmer field and life course, a program of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). In addition to farming skills, the school will teach lessons on personal hygiene, money management, and HIV prevention information.
Launched in Mozambique in 2003, FAO now has schools in Kenya, Namibia, and Zambia educating some 1,000 AIDS orphans ages 12-18. In Mozambique, there are just five such schools, but FAO plans eventually to reach 30,000 orphans at 1,250 schools.
The school partly aims to help children like Mamba produce enough food so that they no longer need food aid. Drought has forced about a quarter of Swaziland's 1 million people to rely on food from the UN World Food Program. The tiny kingdom has the world's highest HIV/AIDS rate, and aid workers believe the epidemic has orphaned up to 100,000 Swazi children.
The chief and elders of the Sihlangwini community in Sithobela donated a field for the school's use. One of the best farmers teaches the students how to raise crops from drought-parched soil. He was the only one to produce a decent maize crop in the area this year, using an irrigation system composed of 2.5 miles of rubber tubes. "At the moment people try and grow maize but it is hard to grow -- I will teach them to grow sorghum, which is easier, and then vegetables, for better nutrition," said Phineas Magagula.
02.23.06; Rebecca Harrison
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.