How Zimbabwean AIDS orphans negotiate their personal identities within the fields of home and school in a stigmatising society

11 Jul 2016

This study is based on field data originally collected for a PhD research project in a small district of Zimbabwe. The study attempts to answer the question about how AIDS orphaned children in a selected context in Zimbabwe construct their concept of self as members of their changed and recomposing families, and as members of their school and their community. Acknowledging and working with the real presence of deeply embedded social understanding about AIDS in this community, the article argues that there is a contradiction between the imported discourse about child-centred pedagogies and educational theories of constructivism in Zimbabwean school settings, on the one hand, and teachers? tendency to ignore the way in which vulnerable children such as AIDS orphans construct their reality during classroom lessons, on the other hand. In developing a rationale for this type of research, it is suggested that the main significance of this exercise lies in attempting to re-think the concepts of home and school in the face of HIV and AIDS. Conceptually framed within Bourdieu?s theory of social practice, the research uses the methodology of critical ethnography. It is the general conclusion of the study that religion and ritual play the most significant role in the selfdefinitions of the AIDS orphans studied here, and that teachers should consciously recognise this fact when dealing with these children within the school and the classroom.