Friday, July 16, 2010

Will all the OVCs in the classroom, please stand up?

OVC is a Namibian governmental term that stands for orphans or vulnerable children. To be an OVC you have no parents, or one of your parents has passed away.

I came to a harsh realization in one of my classes about the prevalence of this class of children in my school, and on a greater scale, Namibia. The teachers were asked to track the number of orphans in the school by home classroom to report to the government. The home classroom teacher for one class forgot to count in her own period, and came to my class to gather her count. She took me aside and asked, "Miss Dana, can I take the orphans from your class?"

I replied, confused, "Yes...but I don't know who they are."

She said that she would just ask them. She then made an announcement to my class that all of the orphans needed to leave the lab and come with her. At that point, half of my class stood up from their comptuers, and walked out of the classroom. Half of my learners had no parents, or one living parent.

In talking with colleagues and my principal about this situation, I learned that most of the parent deaths are casued by AIDS-HIV. I've known that I'm living in a country with 20-25% HIV infection rate, but it didn't really seem like it until this day. While it is so prevalent here, it's also so very hidden - you don't know who has it - it isn't talked about, and when someone dies, even if it's from HIV, it's more acceptable to just say they died of a "heart attack" or "sickness".

It pains me to know how many children grow up without parents, or without a Mother or Father. While it is such a tragedy by our standards, here, it is the norm. It is comforting to see the extension of family care though - many of these children have grandparents, aunt, uncles, brothers, sisters, or friends who care for them when they go "home". While there is usually someone or a group of people to care for OVCs, I learned that it is also common that these learners end up dropping out of school to become the head of household for their family, and care for their younger siblings. Without a high school education, the opportunities for young Namibians and limited, and it's much harder to go back to school later.

Situations like these make me thankful and appreciative of my life and family back in the USA. There is hope, though, that this will not be as severe a situation for Namibian youth in the future. I have seen work and education around issues of AIDS-HIV. Just this morning, a large group of learners received certificates for completing a course, "My Future is my Choice" around sexual health and AIDS-HIV. I pray that as Namibia grows into a developed country, the epidemic that is AIDS-HIV will diminish, and a generation of young Namibians will experience life with both of their parents.

1 comment:

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