Spatialising resilience: HIV-affected learners accounts of schools as coping resources in rural Zimbabwe

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskning


How do HIV-affected children use their schools as resources for coping with the often devastating health and social impacts of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa? We focus on learners in rural Zimbabwe, where levels of HIV are 15 % amongst adults and 2.5 % amongst children, and where 17 % of children have lost one or both parents. Whilst much research has pointed to correlations between school attendance and children’s well being, much remains to be learned about the pathways between school and learner resilience. Ungar (2011) criticises the notion of resilience, widely used in research on children and HIV, for regarding resilience as a property of individuals rather than relationships, and for its lack of analytical specificity. In this paper we use Ungar’s social ecology of resilience as a springboard for elaboration of the concept as a tool for understanding the contextual nature of resilience in school settings, drawing on insights from geography and social psychology. To avoid adult-centric understandings, we privilege learner’s own accounts of their experiences, through a Photovoice project in which 46 AIDS-affected secondary school learners (aged 15 to 17), produced 228 photographs, accompanied by essays, reflecting their experiences of school. Thematic network analysis of the resulting photo-essays foregrounded three life challenges in learners’ accounts of their school-related experiences: (i) the struggle to ensure school access and achievement, (ii) the challenge of optimising their physical health and safety; and (iii) their efforts to preserve emotional health in fractured social environments. Using a combination of evolving and pre-existing categories, especially Massey’s (1999) understanding of social spaces, the metaphor of space served as a useful way of thematising children’s Photovoice narratives of how different aspects of the school experience facilitated or hindered their efforts to cope. The category of physical space included their references to the impacts of the geographical location of the school, the surrounding climate and topography, and the nature of the rooms, buildings and land constituting the school premises. Representational space was used to categorise children’s references to the symbolic value of schooling in their local communities. Social space was used to categorise learners’ accounts of within-school relationships (with peers and teachers) and of the interfaces between schools and outside social networks (including family/household, local NGOs, the church and clinics/health services). The paper uses the photo-essays to illustrate the positive and negative impacts of these spaces on the well-being of AIDS-affected learners. We argue that our model of the opportunities that school-related physical, symbolic and social spaces offer HIV-affected children provides a useful elaboration of the concepts of coping and resilience, and a potentially useful conceptual tool for policy and interventions seeking to facilitate the development of HIV-competent schools.
StatusUdgivet - 2013
Begivenhed17th International Conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa (ICASA), Cape Town South Africa - Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town, Sydafrika
Varighed: 7 dec. 201311 dec. 2013


Konference17th International Conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa (ICASA), Cape Town South Africa
LokationCape Town International Convention Centre
ByCape Town