Indicator 14.5: "Ratio of orphans to non-orphans who are in school - mother, father or both dead"


The ratio of orphaned children aged 10-14 (who have lost either parent) in a household survey who are currently attending school to non-orphaned children the same age who are attending school.

Measurement Tools

Household schedule in UNAIDS general population survey; MICS (UNICEF).

What It Measures

A few community studies suggest that one of the early effects of AIDS sickness and death is that children get taken out of school. This can happen for many reasons: the children may be needed at home to care for sick parents or for younger siblings that their mother is no longer able to look after. This indicator focuses only on those who have lost one or both parents. Children may also be taken out of school to earn money to replace earnings lost through the death of an adult. Or, the loss of earnings and cost of care may mean that the family can simply no longer afford to send children to school. In some cases, girls seeking to supplement family income by seeking payment or rewards for sex drop out of school following pregnancy--sometimes an indirect effect of parental death.

School drop-out can in turn lead to reduced opportunities and high-risk survival strategies, carrying heightened vulnerability to HIV into another generation.

Trends in schooling, however, are affected by many factors other than orphanhood. In an attempt to isolate the effect of orphanhood on school attendance from secular trends in school attendance, the indicator is constructed as a ratio of orphans to non-orphans in school. It provides a crude measure of the effect of parental death on children's schooling.

How to Measure It

In a household survey, respondents are asked to list the children in the household, their ages, whether their mother and father are alive, and whether they are currently attending school. The indicator is constructed by comparing the proportion of children aged 10-14 that are defined as orphans who are in school with the proportion of children the same age who are not orphans who are in school.

Countries may also wish to look separately at trends over time in the percentage of orphans in school and non-orphans in school. The gap between the two will give an idea of the impact of parental death on schooling.

The indicator is confined to children 10-14 years old because age at entry into school varies widely in many countries, so including younger age groups would lead to large variations not related to parental death. It should be presented separately for boys and girls.

Strengths and Limitations

As with similar measures of social and economic impact, this measure does not directly distinguish the cause of orphanhood. It is assumed that a high proportion of deaths of adults with school-aged children in generalised HIV epidemics are likely to be HIV-related.

A potential limitation of this indicator is that orphans out of school are disproportionately likely to be outside of stable households and so be missed in a household-based survey.