Project #10939

Zambia: Support for Schooling of HIV/AIDS Orphans

by Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)
Samuel and Douglas receiving school supplies
Samuel and Douglas receiving school supplies

In Zambia, there are estimated 600,000 children who lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. Most of these orphans stay with their grandparents, relatives, or their family’s close friends. As many of these adopting families are not wealthy, they are unable to send those HIV/AIDS orphans to school.

AAR Japan, having its office in Lusaka City, has been implementing several projects since 2004 to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country. One of the projects is to support HIV/AIDS orphans in their schooling by paying their school fees as well as providing notebooks, uniforms, and other necessary goods. AAR began implementing the schooling support project for more than 100 HIV/AIDS orphans living in N’gombe Compound, a northern suburb of Lusaka City in 2004.

Benson, one of these children who lost his mother to AIDS, was 8 years old when AAR started supporting him. The small boy is now a 17-year-old high school student. Benson has good attendance record in school and maintains great academic performance, always ranking within the 10th place in his class. He is always appreciative of people who support his schooling.

Despite the difficult family situations, the children strive to do well in school, and Benson is one of them. Many of the children say that they wish to have a successful career in the future not only to help their own families but also to give support to any of those who are in dire needs of assistance

Although the guardians of these children were grateful for the schooling support, some of them were not very comfortable with the idea of continuously relying on others. In response to their sentiments, AAR launched income generating activities (IGA) of chicken farming and maize milling to raise children’s schooling expenses and help the guardians improve their earnings.

Esther has been taking a part in the chicken farming of IGA. Her grandson, Eric, is under the support AAR’s schooling project. Steri has been engaging in maize milling since the IGA project began. She lives with one of her grandsons, Moses, who lost his parents to AIDS when he was 5 years old. Thanks to the continuous efforts by the guardians like Esther and Steri, the project generated a net income of about USD 1,125 in 2014, after deducting all expenditures including salaries from the revenue.

As time passed, the situations surrounding the projects have changed. The current number of orphans supported under our schooling project has decreased to 30 as of February 2015 from over 100 at the beginning of the project in 2004, as many of the orphans finished school. As for the IGA project, the guardians have developed necessary skills to generate profits. As such, AAR is considering handing it over to a local committee to enhance autonomy and respect guardians’ own endeavors. Along with the hand-over, we plan to put more emphasis on support for individual children through making changes to the structure of the whole program. From the monitoring and interactions with the orphans, we found that children in the schooling project are in dire need of comprehensive psychosocial care as they have entered puberty. In addition, efforts to enhance guardians’ understanding of the importance of education are necessary. As such we are considering a psychosocial care project, and would like to deactivate the project on GlobalGiving while we go through this transitional phase.

We greatly appreciate all your support. AAR will continue supporting HIV/AIDS orphans in their schooling for a bright future.

N'gombe Compound, Lusaka
Benson (second from left in front) at 8 years old
Benson (second from left in front) at 8 years old
Benson (left, 17 years old) and his family
Benson (left, 17 years old) and his family
Eric and Esther
Eric and Esther
Steri and her hammer mill
Steri and her hammer mill
Douglas, 18 years old and model student
Douglas, 18 years old and model student

Douglas was born on 2 February, 1995. His father passed away in 2001, followed by his mother in 2003. After the death of his parents, his grandmother took care of him. But due to financial challenges, Douglas’s grandmother did not have enough money to pay for his school. It was for this reason that Douglas came to our school support project in 2005.

After three years of being in the project, Douglas’s grandmother became very sick. Due to her illness, she decided to travel back to the village with Douglas where she eventually died.

In 2011, Douglas returned from the village back to Ngombe, where he had lived and received education, under the care of his uncle. When he returned, he reported at our office and requested to be given another schooling opportunity under the same school support project. He finally restarted school the following year in 2012.

However, while under the care of his uncle, Douglas became rebellious and disobedient towards his uncle. He lost interest in schooland he got a job as a gardener and begun to earn some money. In addition, Douglas did not like the idea of sharing a class with girls and boys younger than himself. His uncle was supportive of Douglas’s schooling but because of his attitude, he got frustrated and decided to send him back to the village. However, AAR Japan did not give up on Douglas; we continued to encourage him until his interest in school increased. Because of the dispute between Douglas and his uncle, AAR Japan offered Douglas the opportunity to attend a boarding school by covering all school fees, including his tuition payments and costs for uniforms and stationeries, so that he can concentrate on his studies without any distractions.

After entering the boarding school, Douglas’s change was impressive. In school today, he participates in gardening, cleaning of surroundings and performs other duties assigned to him at the boarding school. Being in the eighth grade, Douglas studies for two hours during the day and two hours during the night. His favorite subject is Science. In his spare time, he plays draughts and volleyball. Early this year, the school director and teachers discovered that he is a very brilliant, determined and enthusiastic young man. His ambitious attitude is evident in the excellent grades he acquires in school. This prompted the school authorities to make a rare exception and to pay examination fees for him to attempt the final ninth grade examination; a higher grade than the one he is in. 

Douglas now appreciates the schooling opportunity given to him. He is confident that he will pass his examinations. Douglas hopes to be an electrical engineer when he completes high school. He also hopes to take his siblings from the village and give them an opportunity to go to school. In the future, he even intends to start an orphanage to take care of orphaned and vulnerable children like himself. He hopes to proceed to university so that he can realize his dreams.

Through the AAR School Project in Zambia, AAR Japan is determined to continue our assistance to HIV/AIDS orphans in Zambia and to support them in making their dreams come true.

Douglas and his mate Samuel ready for school
Douglas and his mate Samuel ready for school
Memory, center, with her mother and brother
Memory, center, with her mother and brother

  Memory is one of the beneficiaries under AAR Japan’s schooling support projectfunded by Globalgiving.

  Memory was born in 1997 in Lusaka. She is currently staying with her 49-year-old mother Rhodah and 5 siblings. Her father left the family when Memory was born, because she was born through C-section and her father was not happy about the surgical procedure. He believed that medical doctors might have left instruments in his wife’s uterus.

  Rhodahwas left to care for her 7 children.Memory was still a baby at the time. Life was difficult for Rhodah, because as a fulltime housewife, she had no education to get a good paying job.Rhodah started selling oranges and bananas to feed her family. Though she had little income, she even tried to send her children to school. Due to the lack of financial resources, however,none of them could continue. Memory was the most eager one of all to continue her education, and in 2005, Memory’s wish found the way.She was recruited onto the AAR Japan schooling support project. Since then, AAR has been assisting her with school fees and necessary items such as notebooks, pens, and school uniforms.  She is currently in grade 10 at Flying Angels Secondary School and is a very active participant in school.


  Memory’s brother has recently passed away from tuberculosis which is one of the most common opportunistic infectious diseases caused by HIV. Now Rhodahis the only breadwinner of the family, and she pays rentfrom the little profitshe makes. As she sells perishable food items, her earning is unstable; which makes it difficult for her to earn enough money for rent and three meals for her children. Memory and her family survive on two meals a day or sometimes one meal a day. To make the matters worse, Rhodah was diagnosed with hypertension a few months ago. For survival, Memory had no other choice but to work. She started selling fruits with her mother on weekends and holidays. This extra work sometimes hindersMemory from concentrating on her education, although she is a very motivated pupil. We often visit her to support her, because we sincerely hope that she will continue her education and get out this negative cycle.


  Memory hopes to complete her secondary school and go to college to be a medical doctor. She says, she wishes to contribute to the development of Zambia in the future. We strongly believe that education is the key to tackle the negative socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS and plan to continue our support to children like Memory.

Memory, enjoying a comic book with her friends
Memory, enjoying a comic book with her friends
Memory in her school uniform of Flying Angels
Memory in her school uniform of Flying Angels
confirming the support with a child and her family
confirming the support with a child and her family

In Zambia, estimated 800,000 children are said to have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS.  Most of these children stay with their grandparents, their relatives, or their family’s close friends.  Many of these host families are not wealthy, unable to send those HIV/AIDS orphans to school.  Among those children, some are going through even harder times, suffering from the disease themselves.

AAR Japan started educational support to Awal, one of the HIV/AIDS orphans, in 2008.  The little boy with innocent smiles grew up to become a 17-year-old man in 10th grade.  He lost his mother at age six, his father at age seven and now lives with his aunt.  His aunt and her family of seven are never rich, living on only 300 kwacha, which is equivalent to approximately 50 US dollars, a month.  Awal’s aunt is struggling with health problems these days.

To make matters worse, Awal has recently come down with the AIDS symptoms.  He became HIV positive through maternal-fetal transmission; and knowing of his HIV positive status, Awal has been taking antiretroviral drugs since he was little. Antiretroviral drugs suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease; however, he quit taking the drugs recently.  This caused skin rash on his face. 

Awal’s friend who had also been taking antiretroviral drugs passed away; which led him to believe that he had no hope for his future and that he would die young anyway.  His host family did not encourage him to continue the treatment, either. 

We were very worried that Awal had stopped taking medication.  Angela Mutale, a staff member of AAR Japan Zambia Office, attempted to see him in person and talk him into resume his treatment, but she was not welcomed at first.  Awal did not want to see Angela, and his aunt was not very supportive on this matter.  After many visits and conversations, however, Awal and his aunt accepted Angela’s sincerity.  Awal finally visited the clinic with Angela, took blood examination, resumed his treatment, and recovered his hope for his future.

Among the 43 children whom AAR supports today, there are HIV/AIDS orphans who contracted AIDS though maternal-fetal transmission like Awal.  There are also HIV/AIDS orphans who are not contracted with AIDS but are forced to live on their own or at an orphanage.  Even the HIV/AIDS orphans who have relatives to live with are obliged to work in order to support their host families.  The government of Zambia recognize the necessity of establishing a support system for these HIV/AIDS orphans, but it is not realized yet. Without appropriate support from the government, many of HIV/AIDS orphans struggle not only physically but psychologically as well.

Some of them have issues such as young pregnancy and underage drinking.  In order to tackle solve these problems, we could not wait for the government of Zambia.  We have to keep encouraging each family to create their own support system at home.  AAR Japan started a new program in 2013 with the help of psycho-social counselor, so as to help the HIV/AIDS orphans and their families solve their everyday problems. 

Awal’s medical condition has been stable since he had resumed the treatment, but we cannot be off-guard yet.  AAR Japan, with the help of local volunteer staff, regularly checks up on Awal to make sure that he is taking the treatment and that his condition is stable.  It is our sincere hope that Awal will continue his treatment and graduate his school, so that he could enjoy what awaits him in the future. 


Note:  In view of privacy protection, assumed names are used in the article, to protect the identity of the beneficiaries.

In front of Benson
In front of Benson's (left) home

Benson MALAWA is a 16-year-old student, who goes to Flying Angels Community School in Ng’ombe Compound in Lusaka. He passed the National Examination of Grade 9 last year and successfully went on to Grade 10 this January. Ever since Benson lost his mother to AIDS four years ago, he has lived with his grandfather, Cosmos SHACHELE. His house, made of irregular-shaped blocks, has five rooms that can barely accommodate all eleven family members including Benson and his grandfather. Cosmos feeds his family repairing shoes and selling bananas in the compound. However, his monthly income is so low that he cannot buy enough food to feed all his family members three regular meals a day. Cosmos is very proud of Benson, but he cannot afford his school expenses under such severe financial constraints. In response to the situation, AAR has supported Benson’s school fees, uniform, shoes and stationery every year.  

Benson has good attendance in school, maintains great performance, and always ranks within the tenth place in his class. His notebook is neatly written and covers all the important points from the classes he attends. His teachers praise his great performance, giving written comments of ‘excellent!’ on the mathematics exercise on his notebook. In Zambia, school textbooks are so expensive that most students cannot afford them. Students instead carefully copy what teachers write on a blackboard on their notebooks and use them as if they were textbooks. Benson normally remains in classroom after he finishes all classes of the day, though he occasionally helps his grandfather’s work immediately after school. As Benson strongly hopes to go to a university, now he works hard especially on English and mathematics because they are considered to be important subjects in Zambia. After university, he wants to pursue a career as a lawyer because he wishes to help people in need in his country. Such aspiration springs from the vulnerable environment in which he grew up. Benson expressed his gratitude for his schooling saying; “Thank you for your support, which enables me to continue to go to school. God bless you.”

It is estimated that there are approximately 800,000 AIDS orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS in Zambia. The students we support are amongst these children. Despite their difficult family situations, they strive to do well in school like Benson. Many of these students told AAR staff members that they wish to have a successful career not only to help their own families but also to give back warm support to any of those who are in dire needs of assistance in the future.

Benson (left) and his mentor Charles (right)
Benson (left) and his mentor Charles (right)
Benson's neat mathematics notebook
Benson (fourth from the left) with his friends
Benson (fourth from the left) with his friends

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Organization Information

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)

Location: Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Website: http:/​/​​english/​
Project Leader:
Yuko Ito
Program Coordinator
Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo Japan

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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