Governments, schools and communities are turning their backs on the education needs of children affected by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, an international rights organization charged Monday.
The virus is one of the leading killers on the world's poorest continent, leaving millions of children without parents who would ensure they go to school, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report called "Letting Them Fail: Government Neglect and the Right to Education for Children Affected by AIDS."
More than 12 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than a third of them are not in school, Human Rights Watch estimated. Lack of education in turn places children at risk of sexual exploitation, unemployment, hazardous labor and other ills, as well as becoming infected with HIV themselves.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than 25 million of the nearly 40 million people around the world infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. More than 2.2 million died of AIDS-related illnesses in the region in 2004, most of them parents.
Uganda's information minister, James Nsaba Buturo, acknowledged the difficulties keeping children in school but said Human Rights Watch should also recognize the financial constraints faced by African governments.
The report's author, Jonathan Cohen, urged governments to review legislation and school policies to ensure no child is turned away for lack of money, and alternate parental care is provided to those who need it.
He also urged international agencies and donors to make education a priority in their interventions on behalf of AIDS-affected children. AM