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The impact of the declining extended family support system on the education of orphans in Lesotho

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This paper examines the impact of the weakening of the extended family on the education of double orphans in Lesotho through in-depth interviews with participants from 3 of the 10 districts in Lesotho. The findings reveal that in Lesotho the extended family has not yet disintegrated as the literature suggests. However, it shows signs of rupturing, as many orphans reported that they are being taken into extended family households, the incentive for these households being, presumably, the financial and other material assistance that they receive from the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which supplements household income and material wellbeing. The findings show that financial and other assistance given by the government and NGOs have resulted in conflict between the orphans and caregivers. This has also prompted many extended families to shift responsibilities to the government and NGOs. Most of the extended households provided the orphans with poor living conditions, such as unhygienic houses, poor nutrition, and little or no provision of school materials, which has had a negative impact on the education of the orphans. The combined effects of economic crisis and HIV and AIDS have resulted in extended families not being able to care for the needs of the orphans adequately, whilst continuing to accept them into their households. It is recommended that although extended families are still accepting orphans, the government should strengthen and recognise the important role played by families and the communities in caring for these vulnerable children. The government should also introduce social grants for orphans and other vulnerable children and review the current meagre public assistance (R100) it provides for orphans and vulnerable children in Lesotho. Other stakeholders should concentrate on strengthening the capacity of families and communities through programmes and projects which could be more sustainable than the current handouts given by many NGOs.

Keywords: HIV and AIDS; care and support; caregivers; education; extended family; orphans

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Social Work/Social Development, University of Fort Hare, PB X1314, Alice 5700, South Africa Author's , Email:

Publication date: 2013-09-01

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