Investigating the effectiveness of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) programmes in schools : a case of Ntuzuma G-section in Durban.
South Africa has a growing number of orphans and other children made vulnerable by the scourge of HIV and AIDS. Like many other countries in Africa and globally, the fight against this pandemic has been ongoing. Not only have there been interventions to stop the spread of the disease and provide education on preventive measures, but the country has the responsibility to take care of the orphans and ensure that their needs are met as enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution. Some interventions are mandated by the United Nations’ (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child and other treaties and declarations that are vital to children. The South African government also has its own strategies to deal with the effects of the pandemic. One such initiative is the establishment and funding of school-based programmes for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC). The study investigated the effectiveness of this programme within three schools in Ntuzuma G-section, which is situated in the eThekwini Region in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal. The study employed non-probability sampling procedures. Interviews were conducted with the OVC coordinator in the Pinetown district of the Department of Education, principals and OVC coordinators at the three schools, and OVC caregivers/foster parents at home. Guided by Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecosystems theory of child development, the results of the study suggest that this initiative is not effective in addressing the needs of OVC. It was established that orphans come to schools with psychological and developmental challenges which the programme fails to address. Emerging data suggest a lack of efficient and effective planning, proper allocation of funding and proper monitoring strategies in implementing this programme. The lack of training of OVC coordinators in schools to ensure the effective running of the programme is also cause for concern. They also lack support from the district office to ensure the sustainability of the programme. Hence, while the study acknowledges that such programmes are a worthwhile government initiative centred on the concept of ‘ubuntu’ (humanism), it is also recognised that a lack of proper systems and processes compromise quality service delivery. Without a conducive environment, it becomes challenging for the OVC Coordinators to respond appropriately, particularly because the nutrition programme is not the schools’ traditional role. Based on Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecosystems theory of child development, it is recognized that the socio-economic challenges associated with the escalating rate of OVC are structural and systemic; hence, schools should collaborate with other social actors such as families, churches, communities, health agencies, non-profit organizations, and government departments to build OVC’s resilience and bring about genuine development. This approach is also likely to result in a paradigm shift in the schools’ OVC programme from institutionalized to community care and support initiatives. Therefore this study recommends policy reforms in the school education system so as to foster and promote partnerships to ultimately enrich the wellbeing of OVC. This should include, inter alia, ongoing monitoring and evaluation and proper liaison between the Department of Education (DoE) and communities to enhance ongoing care and support of OVC. Continuous OVC training and support for educators are also recommended as socio-economic challenges demand that all educators develop a consciousness of social justice. Currently, training support is limited to educators who are OVC coordinators. It is recommended that all educators be properly trained to understand the needs and strengths of OVC for systems strengthening. The study concludes that the OVC programmes in schools are not a panacea for development. To ensure effectiveness, other development actors should come on board to promote people-centred, community-driven development.