Children in Eswatini

Children in Eswatini

There are just over half a million children in Eswatini, a small landlocked country formerly known as Swaziland, surrounded by South Africa to the north, west and south and Mozambique to the east, yet 100,000 of them are living as orphans with the majority of those having lost their parents to AIDS. Hardly surprising given that Eswatini has the highest rate of HIV infections the world with 27.2% of its population of 1.15 million people affected, with females particularly at risk. In fact, 35% of women and girls there between the ages of 15-49 years are HIV positive whilst 19% of boys and men are.

As a result, 38% of rural households (58.9% of whom already live below the national poverty line) care for at least one orphan. According the the Eswatini governments' 2019 'Hiv Estimates and Projections Report', the total number of people living with HIV in the country was estimated to be 205,700 (11,300 children aged 0-14 years and 194,400 adults) in 2018 and is projected to increase to 221,600 (7,700 for children and 213,900 for adults) by 2024. The same report concludes that AIDS-related deaths are projected to decline from 2,400 in 2018 to 1,900 in 2024 overall and child deaths from the virus to fall from an estimated 300 (0-14 years in 2018) to 100 by 2024. One result of this will be a decline in the number of orphan children in Eswatini.

One of the reasons for the current high numbers, amongst young peple in particular, is the genuine fear of HIV testing, not least their parent's and friends' reaction to a positive diagnosis together with a deep fear of having to takoe antiretrovirals (ARVs) for life and of course death itself. There is also a requirement for parental consent for testing which can lead to further already endemic physical abuse and harsh treatment by health staff at clinics that are widely identified as places you only attend to die. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has had (and is having) a devastating impact on the central tenet of life in Swaziland, the family which is headed by the father (umnumzana) whose authority is expected to be obeyed with girls taught that they are inferior to boys with a lower legal status, basically little more than children, as most families are simply disintegrating as older members die.

Eswatini Homestead

With no adults to care for them, not even extended family or neighbours, orphaned children quickly fall into deeper poverty and hunger making attending school impractical leaving themselves vulnerable to the already widespread child trafficking in Eswatini, where there is no law specifically prohibiting trafficking, with children being trafficked both internally and to other countries. For girls this mainly includes domestic servitude and sexual exploitation whilst for boys the trafficking is normally for forced labour and begging or selling in markets. Coupled with a lack of health care professionals and with 40% of all children in Swaziland suffering from chronic malnutrition, life outcomes for children are poor with a life expectancy of just 60.19 years (2019). Most children in Eswatini live in under-developed rural communities whose fathers, if alive, work on the land in subsistence farming with approximately two-thirds of utilized arable land in Eswatini under maize cultivation, the staple diet. However production is low not least because of the limited availability of water for irrigation mainly attributed to increasingly sparse rainfall.

Children's Education in Eswatini

Education for children in Eswatini starts at the age of six with primary education (grades 1-7) comprising a seven year program culminating in the primary school examination. Secondary school then runs for five years with three years of junior secondary and two years of senior secondary although candidates must pass their Junior Certificate in order to be promotes to senior secondary. At the end of this period, children sit their Swaziland General Certificate of Secondary Education (SGCSE) and/or International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). Successful students can then progress to tertiery education including such institutions as the University of Eswatini.

Although primary level education is free in Eswatini (at least from grades 1-4), there are the inevitable 'top up fees' pushing access to that education out of the reach of many families and secondary education is expensive in the country with high drop out rates, higher for females often due to pregnancy. A great many students refuse to continue to attend because of the cultural norm of violence by teachers in the classroom (in fact Swaziland has a very high rate of child abuse in general particularly against girls and although being a signatory to all international treaties on Women’s and Children’s Rights, including the CEDAW Convention, has yet to implement them) and what they see as an irrelevance of the education they receive in a country with unemployment rates running at 25.6% of the general population and 54.8% among young people aged between 15 and 24 years.

Eswatini Orphans

Their home is often a run down Nguni "bee-hive" hut (a rounded frame made of poles covered with thatch bound with plaited ropes) without access to running water or electricity and the majority use pit latrines for sanitation. The traditional homestead has a 'sibya' at its centre, an unroofed, fenced cattle pen and the sleeping accommodation is located on the western side. A 'indlunkulu' (great hut) is used as a shrine, dedicated to the family's ancestors ~ but only on the male side. Drinking contaminated water and using unsanitary toilets contributes to 80% of all sickness and diseases in Eswatini, claiming the lives of one in ten children under the age of 5yrs old. Most children in Eswatini have four brothers and sisters and their father may take more than one wife with each wife and children living within the family compound with the individual accommodation being separated by a fence made of reeds or similar material. There are many charities you can contact to help children in Eswatini, offering practical aid, health care, education and much more (see below).

Children in Eswatini: Swazi Kids

Eswatini Children: Swazi Kids

Swazi Kids is a non-governmental organization based in British Columbia, Canada, dedicated to improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable children and adults in eSwatini by breaking the cycle of needless poverty, illness and lack of education, one community, one student and one family at a time.

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Children in Eswatini: SOS Children's Villages

Child Sponsor Eswatini (Swaziland): SOS Children's Villages

With SOS Children, you can help orphaned and abandoned children when you sponsor a child in Eswatini (Swaziland).

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Children in Eswatini: Partners In Education Swaziland

Eswatini Children: Partners In Education Swaziland

Partners In Education Swaziland is a charity that provides a meal a day and basic education for the most vulnerable children in Eswatini (Swaziland). They operate from two Care Centres providing support for over 200 children every day of the year.

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Children in Eswatini: The SHAMBA Trust

Eswatini Children: The SHAMBA Trust

The SHAMBA Trus works in Eswatini to provide high quality preschool education for children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, adequate nutrition and the promotion of early childhood development at family and community levels.

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Children in Eswatini: Swaziland Schools Projects

Eswatini Children: Swaziland Schools Projects

The Swaziland Schools Projects helps the education of children and adults in eSwatini by paying bursaries for school fees so children can attend school so that vulnerable children from the poorest communities may go to school; providing buildings such as classrooms, toilet blocks, kitchens, teachers' houses and water supplies; providing food for lunches, resources and equipment such as books and furniture; funding vocational training for young Swazis and employing them to repair school furniture and funding Early Childhood Development courses for volunteer Swazis working in pre-schools.

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Children in Eswatini: Sponsor Children in Eswatini (Swaziland)

Sponsor Children in Eswatini (Swaziland)

Details of how to sponsor children in Eswatini (Swaziland) with Eswatini/Swaziland child sponsor programs.

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Children in Eswatini: Volunteer in Eswatini (Swaziland)

Volunteer in Eswatini (Swaziland)

As well as sponsoring a child why not explore volunteering opportunities in Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland?

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Children in Eswatini: Eswatini (Swaziland) Country Profile

African Country Profiles: Eswatini (Swaziland)

In another of our African country profiles, find out all about Eswatini (Swaziland) in a series of information articles, latest daily news, videos, and images together with volunteering and child sponsorship opportunities.

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