The impact of adult mortality and parental deaths on primary schooling in north-western Tanzania
JOURNAL OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES
The World Bank, University of Dar es Salaam
Mortality of parents and other adults due to the African AIDS epidemic could reduce children's primary schooling by reducing households' ability to pay fees, raising the opportunity cost of children's time, and leaving orphaned children with guardians who care less about their education than would their parents. This study measures the impact of adult deaths and orphan status on primary school attendance and hours spent at school using a panel household survey from north-western Tanzania, an area hard-hit by the AIDS epidemic. Attendance was delayed for maternal orphans and children in poor households with a recent adult death; there was no evidence that children 7-14 dropped out of primary school due to orphan status or adult deaths. However, among children already attending, school hours were significantly lower in the months prior to an adult death in the household and seemed to recover following the death. In addition, girls sharply reduced their hours in school immediately after losing a parent.
Improvements in school quality and better access to secondary education would improve outcomes for all children, including those affected by adult AIDS mortality. Beyond that, public policy needs to focus on the special schooling constraints faced by children affected by adult deaths, both in terms of increased opportunity costs of their time and the psychological impacts, with an eye to how they might be mitigated and at what cost.