Confronting Silence – A Dissertation

Confronting Silence:

A reconceptualist exploration into the impact of HIV/AIDS, poverty and the legacy of apartheid on young children in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

A Dissertation by Jane Barbara Habermehl for her MA in Education
Goldsmiths College, University of London September 2012


This study is largely an ethnographic approach to investigating the impact of poverty, the legacy of apartheid and the HIV/AIDS pandemic on young children in rural Kwa-Zulu-Natal.
The breakdown of family and cultural cohesion here has been acknowledged on a national level and although acknowledged locally what is of more cause for concern is the silence surrounding the pandemic stemming from fear, shame and lack of knowledge. Lack of inter-generational communication in the midst of this crisis can be psychologically damaging for young children and lack of guidance can leave teenagers vulnerable to pregnancy and HIV infection.
Taking a reconceptualist approach and focusing on the cultural context of the child’s environment the study draws on the wisdom and experience of black African voices as well as research and study into the crisis by contemporary western academics.
There are strengths within the community, particularly amongst early years educators and community support workers which with financial input could form an effective resource. There is also a range of care, counselling and practical support given locally by a collaboration of NGOs and civic bodies.
However these initiatives need to support the empowerment of the community so that there is continuity in cultural strengths and traditions alongside growth and development. The community needs to regain self esteem and the power of its own voice to work actively alongside the social and medical teams. I suggest culturally sensitive local initiatives that address empowerment through drama, art, discussion and workshops

For children the use of persona dolls to encourage verbalisation of fears would supplement nurturing family and community support.

Download the dissertation here