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Orphaned Adolescents In Botswana

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 3531 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Definition of an orphan is different from country to country, but all in all, an orphan is a child who does not have parents. UNICEF and UNASAIDS define an orphan as a child that has lost one parent; maternal orphan has lost his/her mother, paternal orphan is a child whose father has died and double orphan has lost both parents. In Botswana, orphan refers to a child below 18years who has lost one (single parent) or two (married couples) biological or adoptive parents. Parental deaths from all causes have left 143 million orphan children and youth across countries in sub-Saharan, Asia and Latin America, including 79 million ages 12 through 17years, (Osborn, 2007). Many countries try to address the challenges that this children faces by providing material support such as food, security, shelter and free education but they overlook the psychological, and emotional support and sexual and reproductive support that this children could be getting from their parents, therefore, these children become vulnerable to all kinds of delinquencies such as premarital sex, drug and alcohol abuse.


Orphans are special population, they do not have parents who raise them as compared to non orphaned children; they need special kind of care in order to help them go through grieving and meet all the developmental stages so they can become good adults in future. Improper development and upbringing make them vulnerable. There are many factors that make them vulnerable; firstly, growing up without parental care and love deprives children off a family support system. Family members rely on family system (comprising of; affection, self esteem spiritual, economics, daily care, socialization, recreation and education to meet their individual and collective needs (Turnbull and Turnbull, 2001). Parents, especially, have an important role to support intellectually, emotionally and self esteem needs of their children (Maxwell, 1998). Therefore adolescent orphans are devoid of the parental support and care which help them to develop a positive concept of who they are. They are also devoid of the self care instruction, which helps to prepare them for success in adult life.

Magnitude and Description of the Problem

There are many factors that lead to children to be orphaned, but HIV/AIDS is taking the lead. Other factors are road traffic accidents, diseases, financial constraints (for abandoned children), teenage pregnancy and suicide. Brink (2004) reports that the global number of children orphaned to HIV and AIDS increased from 11.5 million in 2001 to 15 million in 2003, the majority of the orphans being in Africa. Variations in Africa have also been noted (UNAIDS, 2006), with Southern Africa being the most affected. There are approximately 111,812 orphans in Botswana, representing approximately 15.2 percent of the children below the age of 18 years (Botswana child monitor, 2005). Over one half of the orphans are adolescents (64% as shown in the pie chart) (Botswana child monitor, 2005). The Botswana child monitor statistics continue to reveal that: 77% of all orphans in Botswana lost at least one of their parents because of AIDS; 87% of the orphans still have one parent alive but 34% of them live with grandparents, 11% live with other relatives; almost 56% of orphans live with heads of households who are not economically active and 44% of orphans live with those economically active but the majority of these are employed in low-paying jobs.


Challenges on the General Well Being

Adolescent orphans come across many life rivalries that challenge them to progress in life as compared to un-orphaned children. In cases where the orphaned child does not have even a guardian or family member to give care, his/her needs are not met due to lack of funding and sub-standard conditions (Grey, 2010). These challenges affect their physical, behavioral, social, mental and intellectual wellbeing, (Grey, 2010).

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Socially, orphans have problems in developing proper relationships with peers and yet display indiscriminate friendliness in an effort to reach to others. This is where attachment theory comes in; this is the theory that describes the dynamic of long term relationships between humans especially as in family and long term friends (Bowlby, 1969). Infants need to develop a relationship with at least one primary care giver for social and emotional development to occur normally and that further relationships build on the patterns developed in the first relationship. Orphans did not have chance to have relationship with his/her parents. This impedes an orphan’s ability to form genuine attachments.

Challenges Due to Improper Family Structure

Sometimes orphans are abused (sexually, emotionally and financially) by their guardian, step parent or distant relative, and then adolescent, whom is in most of the cases the eldest, will choose to take care of the siblings. She/he will become a parent, a care giver and a student at the same time. She will have to shift from being dependent upon parents to becoming responsible and providing for the family. The quest for stability and security can result in potentially exploitative sexual behavior with older partners (sugar daddies and mummies), young single mother hood and HIV infection. This is supported by Tshweneyagae, Wright and Hoffmann, (2009); orphaned adolescent are vulnerable to HIV infection because they are more amenable to multiple partners as a means of survival for emotional and financial support. Some, more-especially male adolescent, would join the growing ranks of street children who soon become professional beggars, glue sniffers and criminals. This will end up affecting their academic performance.

Orphaned adolescent are at a critical developmental stage formulated by Erikson 1968; identity versus confusion. Erikson defines identity as a person’s stable, coherent and integrated sense of self. That is who he/she is and what he/she stands for as a member of society. Healthy identity seems to correlate to the establishment of healthy relationship between parents and their children which allows for individual freedom, (Erikson 1968). The family can grant autonomy or feedback processes to either encourage or discourage individuality and innovations (Watson and Prostinky, 1998). As the orphaned adolescent have no parents to guide them, they end up on confusion role, not knowing who really they are and how others expect them to be. They end up being promiscuous, criminals and drug dealers in a confusion that, that would be the only way to earn finance. There are children who grew up in poor families, but because they have access to good guidance from parents, its rear to find them indulging in negative things to earn money.

Orphans and Education

Orphans are less likely to be enrolled in schools than non-orphans (Paxson and Ableidinger, 2002). However, contrary to recent reports from World Bank and UNSAIDS, the lower school enrollment rate of orphans cannot be accounted to solely by their poverty, (Paxson and Ableidinger, 2002). Paxson and Ableidinger (2002) found out that the lower enrollment of orphans is largely accounted by the nature of the relationship between the orphans and the decision making adult in the family. Children in household headed by their grandparents and parents are more likely to attend school than those children who live with their other more distant relatives and non-relatives. This evidence support the idea that house hold decision markers allocate resources towards children with whom they have close relationships and discriminate against children whose ties are more distant (Paxson and Ableidinger, 2002). Sometimes orphans become truant because they are responsible for household chores, they are the once doing all heavy labor work such as in the fields, cattle post and general household chores whereas with the children of the household decision maker, school is their first priority.

Programs Assisting Orphan Adolescents in Botswana

There numbers of orphans due to HIV/AIDS increased, this called for government and other stakeholders’ attention. Traditionally, orphaned children in Botswana have been cared for by extended families. However, due to social and economic strain some families are no longer able because orphans increase an alarming rate. The government organizations, non government organization, volunteers and community based programmes took responsibility to take care of the orphans.

Government Programmes

They are 100% government owned example the national orphan programme and masiela trust fund. A National Orphan Programme was established in April 1999 to respond to the immediate needs of orphaned children, and a comprehensive policy for helping AIDS orphans was established under this programme (UNAIDS, 2006). The government currently runs a ‘food basket’ scheme, where a basket of food is provided to orphaned households once a month. Orphans are also provided with school uniforms and are subsidized for transportation fees to get to school. Masiela trust fund was set up by the cabinet to be responsible for the orphans. It works closely with the ministry of local government. Its role is to raise funds which are then allocated to appropriate nongovernmental organizations and community based organizations working with orphans and vulnerable children (Dlamini, 2004).

Community Based Programmes

These are programmes founded by communities and churches. They are funded by local companies, local banks and the government. Examples are Bobirwa trust fund, Kgaitsadi Society and Bana Baketso orphan day care. Most of these programmes care mostly for 3-6 children. Bana Baketso orphan day care has interventions for adolescents. It is based in Molepolole. The school was established in 1998 and works closely with the Keletso counseling and testing centre and also offers spiritual and social counseling. The Bana Ba Keletso day care centre is attended by 334 registered orphans and vulnerable children, ranging in age from 2-18years (Dlamini, 2004). Schooling children (7-18years) are collected after school to attend the centre. They receive a meal and participate in various activities with care givers including: Help with home work; Bereavement and trauma counseling support programmes to help them cope.; Music and gospel sessions to help children cope and develop their spirituality; Drama and swimming at private schools that have partnered with Day care centre; Psychological camps at various venues during holidays, which is also open to adolescents outside the centre. The focus of the camp is to integrate the children socially, to teach them survival skills and life skills to encourage positive attitudes. The camp promotes good, safe behavior to avoid the risk of HIV infection.

The center provides training for income generating activities for adolescents such as leather work and art work and they are assisted finding employment. The care givers are trained in counseling and grief support. They assist the follow up of treatment of HIV/AIDS-positive children at clinics and in Gaborone where they receive their Anti Retroviral therapy treatment (Dlamini, 2004).

Non-Governmental Organization Programs

These are programs that are independent and funded by international companies, individuals and international governments, examples are Masitara foundation, Bill Melinda gates foundation, SOS children’s village and Mpule Kwelagobe foundations.

SOS also has specific objective for adolescents. It is a Children’s Villages which helped children who are orphaned, abandoned or whose families are unable to care for them. They give these children the opportunity to build lasting relationships within an SOS family.  Their family approach in the SOS Children’s Village is based on four principles:

Each child needs a mother,

Each child grows up most naturally with brothers and sisters,

Each child grows up in their own house,

Each child grows up within a supportive village environment.

SOS Children began working in Botswana in 1986 when we opened a community in Tlokweng (15 family houses and nursery), Another in Francistown, built in 1998 (15 family houses and an SOS and a nursery) and third village is being built at Serowe (5 family houses and a nursery) (SOS children’s villages, 2010). Children attend the local government schools, all within walking distance, and the younger ones use the SOS Nursery. There is An SOS Vocational Training Centre teaches (16years old) tailoring, welding and carpentry to give them the best possible chance of earning a living when they are ready to leave the village. Tlokweng also has a farm which provides most of the Village’s food requirements as well as further vocational training opportunities (SOS Children’s villages, 2010).

Another programme that is very important is BOFWA, Botswana Family Welfare Association. It was founded in September 1988. BOFWA provides information and services on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH).  This approach appears necessary based on the current statistics of teenage pregnancy, HIV infection and AIDS cases in Botswana.  The approach specifically targets young people who are vulnerable to HIV infection due to unprotected sex which also leads to unplanned pregnancy which comes with psychological, social and physical consequences. This programme is essential for orphaned adolescents because it covers sexual and reproductive issues and orphaned adolescent are very vulnerable to such issues adopted on line: http://www.bofwa.bw/focus.html

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Evidenced Based Specific Interventions Related To Adolescent Orphans

Rivers and Aggleton (2003) approved that globally as many as 100 million young people under the age of 18 live or work on the streets of urban areas. Many report having exchanged sex for money, goods or protection, injecting drugs and having been raped. In most cases, orphaned adolescents are the ones who are poor, have no proper parental guidance, therefore they are trapped in this bad activities. In such situations explicit intervention is needed to counterbalance the disempowering effects of community environments on susceptible groups like adolescent orphans (Msimang 2001). The following interventions can reduce risk and vulnerability:

• Provision of free, universal education (Loewenson, 2007): Young females with higher educational level are more likely to report practicing abstinence than those with lower educational level (koffi and kawaha, 2008). Education equips orphan adolescent with knowledge that they could be getting from their parents. Also education gives these orphans hopes that one day they will be able to support themselves, so they do not have to exploit their bodies by exchange sex for money.

• Support of teachers to deliver effective programs of HIV-related education, build youth awareness and challenging youth and gender stereotypes (Loewenson, 2007): Teachers have to make students understand that it is important to learn skills and behavior change in this domain as compared to other academic areas where achievement on a test may be important. Teachers can make this distinction by stating to the class why sexual education is so important for them. Stories of adolescents whose lives have been affected in negative ways by pregnancy or STDs (e.g., discussion of true stories, showing videos of true stories) can be very useful. The idea here is to encourage students to value what they are learning as a mechanism for behavior change, rather than focusing on simple knowledge acquisition and memorization.

• Universal access to youth friendly health services for prevention, treatment and care (Loewenson, 2007). Providing reproductive health and HIV/AIDS education and services is critical as orphans are vulnerable to risky sexual behaviors. Staff may need training in order: not to discriminate against youth; to understand that parental consent may keep youth from seeking health care; to realize that young people usually lack the means to pay for services; and to cope with youth’s difficulties in adhering to treatment.

• Social interventions to promote more open forms of communication within and between families, communities and young people (Loewenson, 2007): Supervision by people in the community and parental supervision are possible factors that may prevent risky behaviors of underserved adolescents such as orphans. Community should be more sensitive to support safer sexual behaviors, according to adolescent needs and wishes. Good relationship between care givers and appropriate attitudes of people within the community towards orphans should be encouraged.

Other interventions as adopted from (Loewenson, 2007) include, law reforms and enforcement on gender violence, inheritance and sexual cleansing; legal and counseling services to victims of domestic violence; public and political leadership speaking out against harmful practices; small business loans and production inputs from state and NGOs to households to sustain production; and public works, cash transfers and income support to households caring for orphans.

Chacham (2007) stresses that; supply is only one part of the picture. Demand and uptake issues need to be addressed. This implies making services acceptable and accessible to male and female youth, through entry points that young people will use before they are at risk, and preventing social stigma or victimization for use of services.

Strengths of the orphanage programmes in Botswana

The activities in programmes are child and adolescent focused such as counseling and recreational activities.

There is evidence of youth empowerment in most centers such as camping which provide a useful opportunities for children to acquire skills from care givers (survival skills), artwork activities tailoring, welding and carpentry.

Most of the programmes involve the community although there is room for extending community involvement such as funding from government.

Their main goal is focused on promoting and protecting Orphaned and vulnerable Children in to better adults.

Providing interaction of children with those who are not orphans by allowing non-orphan children in the SOS nursery, adolescent in government schools and camping not exclusive to orphans.

Weakness/ Challenges of the Orphanage Programmes in Botswana

Lack of infrastructure, in Bana ba keletso day care centre, 334 children are taken care of in 2 bed roomed rented house, during our visit, when it rains, all children overcrowd in a small house (Dlamini, 2004).

Lack of finance: inadequate funding as well as the uncertainty of the available funds especially to feed the children. The government brings fixed amount not taking in to consideration price fluctuations.

They are few social workers in the districts, causing delay in cases requiring their immediate attention example, children who are sexually abused.

No evidence for community empowerment programmes to reduce dependence.

There is no feasible orphan policy, care givers and volunteers do whatever they can lay hands on.

Most of these programmes fail to address the sexual and reproductive issues that the adolescents face.


Young people are part of the promise for the future, the hope of a next generation. These adolescents need proper upbringing to be future leaders of the country. The programmes are really playing a good role; they are helping the innocent and vulnerable to conquer life challenges as adolescence is a critical stage of life. It’s a stage where most individual life starts to turn over if they choose negative deeds and attitudes


The government should give these programs more resources such as land to engage in poultry and vegetable farming as well as mobile restaurants hence developing entrepreneurial skills in children at early age. This will reduce the financial problems experienced.

More main power such as social workers should be available in most of the time, adolescent need more advices and professional counseling, so that the programme cannot rely only on lay counselors.

Projects working with orphaned adolescents should address the developmental needs of this age group. Adolescents have particular developmental needs that can be much more challenging without parents. Programs generally are not addressing the psychosocial, sexuality and reproductive health, social support, and livelihood needs of adolescents who are orphans. In addition, programs need to realize that age and sex differences are important. Developmental needs of younger and older adolescents vary. Girls and boys may also have different needs.


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