Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research 2017 07 05() doi 10.1007/s11121-017-0817-x
Globally, significant progress has been made in primary school enrollment. However, there are millions of adolescents-including orphans in sub-Saharan Africa-who still experience barriers to remaining in school. We conducted a 4-year cluster randomized controlled trial (cRCT) (N = 835) in a high HIV prevalence area in western Kenya to test whether providing orphaned adolescents with a school support intervention improves their educational outcomes. The school support intervention consisted of directly paying tuition, exam fees, and uniform costs to primary and secondary schools for those students who remained enrolled. In addition, research staff monitored intervention participants’ school attendance and helped to address barriers to staying in school. This school support intervention had significant positive impacts on educational outcomes for orphaned adolescents. Over the course of the study, school absence remained stable for intervention group participants but increased in frequency for control group participants. Intervention group participants were less likely to drop out of school compared to the control group. Furthermore, the intervention participants were more likely to make age-appropriate progression in grade, matriculate into secondary school, and achieve higher levels of education by the end of the study. The intervention also increased students’ expectations of graduating from college in the future. However, we found no significant intervention impact on primary and secondary school test scores. Results from this cRCT suggest that directly covering school-related expenses for male and female orphaned adolescents in western Kenya can improve their educational outcomes.