Mozambique: How to keep children in school: Support the grandparents

Living Together is a community-based programme in Tete province, Mozambique that supports the rising numbers of older people who are bringing up orphans. It helps them to make ends meet and send the children to school. HelpAge International has developed this two-year programme with UNICEF.
No money for books

Maria Dosiole Qalquer is in her 60s. Her daughter died of AIDS in 1995 and a month later, Maria's son-in-law died too.

Maria is now struggling to bring up her four grandchildren, including ten-year-old Wade Antonio. His clothes are practically rags. He helps the family by earning money herding other people's goats. He has no money for books at school and the other children make fun of him. "They laugh at me because of my clothes and because I have no shoes. I get angry but there is nothing I can do."

In part Maria survives on the income she makes by breeding from the goats she received as part of HelpAge International's support scheme. The children have also received extra food.

Poverty and HIV/AIDS

Maria and her family live in Cachembe, one of the villages of Changara district included in the Living Together programme. This area faces worsening poverty as a result of consecutive emergencies (floods and drought), and the effects of HIV/AIDS.

Tete province, in northwest Mozambique has a higher than average number of HIV/AIDS cases - the official prevalence rate is 18 per cent compared with 12 per cent for the whole country. It is also one of the poorest regions in Mozambique, with an average annual income per capita of US$ 99, less than half the national average.

Who is affected?

The programme began by conducting a survey of the number of orphans in the communities of Changara district. By December 2002, the survey had identified 774 older carers looking after 2,187 orphans. Of these orphans, 529 had lost both parents, 373 had lost their mothers and 1,285 had lost their fathers.

The survey also helped to compile data on those living with HIV/AIDS and those who had died as a result of the virus. Older people working as HIV/AIDS counsellors in the community explain that local clinics in the district do not have statistics on HIV prevalence rates. The nearest centre that provides testing for HIV/AIDS is 100 kilometres away.

Practical community support

The programme is based on older people's committees working to connect carers to community resources and support. People of all ages are trained to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and to provide home visiting and counseling services. They also work with local government to ensure that orphans and vulnerable children in households headed by older people or young people are able to go to school. Ouventes or listeners visit the homes of vulnerable older people to find out about their situation and their needs.

These families receive support with basic needs including agricultural inputs (ploughs, ox carts and seeds), school materials and school uniforms where needed, clothes and hygiene articles, and funeral expenses. Training is provided to help them run small businesses and develop specific skills such as pottery and basket-making.