Double Orphanhood: A Psychosocial Barrier to Assimilation of Learning Schemes in Child-Headed Households
Abstract‘Orphanhood’ is among the many undesirable phenomena within developing countries which seem to be precipitated by escalating parental deaths mostly rooted in the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS and poverty. This case study investigated double orphanhood and its effects on the cognition and learning of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) living within child-headed households (CHHs) in Zimbabwe. The qualitative enquiry is hinged on constructivist views in Erikson’s psychosocial development theory. The triangulated data was collected through participant observations, an open-ended questionnaire, interviews, and focus group discussions held at four secondary schools. The purposefully selected participants comprised 20 double orphans and vulnerable children, four headmasters, eight teachers, one Education Officer and one Social Welfare officer, making a total sample of 34. The findings revealed that though most OVC try to remain resilient within their orphanhood predicament, they continue to suffer loneliness, inferiority complex, stresses, anxieties, low self-esteem, lack of concentration in class and more negativity that militates against effective assimilation and accommodation of learning materials within their environment. The phenomenon affected both sexes and was exacerbated by poverty, need deprivation and overwhelming household and parenting responsibilities. Older OVC were contemplating dropping out of school in order to work, earn and look after their siblings. Even though some OVC reported occasional receipt of aid through donors and the government’s facilities such as the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), not all OVC were lucky enough to remain beneficiaries up to the end of their secondary schooling. Orphanhood was found to be a psychological deterrent to cognition and learning.
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