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Schoolchildren affected by HIV in rural South Africa: schools as environments that enable or limit coping

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The importance of psychosocial support for the wellbeing of children made vulnerable by HIV is a frequently discussed topic in the fields of education and HIV-related social science research. For children to juggle both the demands of education and the impacts of HIV is an enormous challenge. Against this background, schools have been hailed as potential sources of support, yet we know little about how the school environment can provide support, which might reflect the lack of input from schoolchildren themselves. This article explores how schoolchildren made vulnerable due to HIV and AIDS might cope and even thrive in a rural school environment in South Africa. I argue that schoolchildren's own contributions and abilities are fundamental to accelerate their coping strategies, allowing them to step back from vulnerability and so gain perspective about it. An inductive analysis makes use of data generated from a method of participatory photography (PhotoVoice), conducted with schoolchildren aged 16–18 years at a rural school in KwaZulu-Natal Province. The article draws on the concept of appreciative inquiry as a framework for examining coping strategies among schoolchildren made vulnerable by HIV. The findings point to the schoolchildren's ability to identify and access resources that will encourage them to cope with HIV-related adversities in their own lives. The participants revealed an ability to point out perceived social and structural challenges that have a dominant influence on their coping strategies.

Keywords: PhotoVoice; appreciative inquiry; assets; coping; psychosocial aspects; research methods; rural settings; visual participatory methods

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Edgewood Campus, Private Bag X03 Ashwood, 3605, Durban, South Africa

Publication date: 2012-10-01

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