The Open University

i-SPACE-Africa: Social Protection and Care Education in Africa

The i-Space-Africa project aims to enhance social care services for vulnerable children in Sub-Saharan Africa, many of whom are orphaned by AIDS. To achieve this, we will develop education materials that can be directly and freely accessed by community- based carers and volunteers working with vulnerable children, their families and communities in Africa. Additionally, we will provide opportunities for carers and volunteers (often grandmothers, siblings, or family friends) to gain recognised and accredited qualifications for their work, to help enhance their employability and reduce financial hardship.

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Registered Charity in England and Wales (SC038302)




  • Health/WellbeingHealth/Wellbeing


  • Children (3-18)Children (3-18)
  • Older PeopleOlder People
  • Women & GirlsWomen & Girls
  • Young People (18-30)Young People (18-30)
  • OtherOther



HIV/AIDS is the biggest threat to human development in sub-Saharan Africa, and it profoundly affects the lives of children. For example, in Zambia, by 2010 every third child will be an orphan because of HIV/AIDS. The impact of parental illness and death on children is complex, with implications on their mental health, physical well-being and potential. Few existing responses to the problem are sufficient to address the crisis at a scale or at the speed needed. We need a solution that provides rapid responses with broad coverage across the region, which includes psychosocial care and support. The answer, we believe, is a programme of quality online learning materials that can be delivered at scale, across Africa, to increase the number of trained social care workers with improved technical knowledge and expertise. This exciting and ambitious project will be delivered through a partnership between The Open University, UNICEF East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO), and the African Centre for Childhood based at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. Through partnerships with and between educators, community-based organisations, social care professionals and volunteers, we will ensure that the materials are relevant to local priorities and focused on the unmet needs of the most vulnerable children. We will also develop structured ‘learning pathways’ for those accessing the new learning materials, so that they can gain qualifications in International Social Care (at certificate, diploma and degree level). This will increase the employability of many African care workers and volunteers, especially rural-based women. This unique partnership will combine the OU’s expertise in creating flexible open distance learning models that can be delivered at scale, UNICEF’s experience of working directly with vulnerable children in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the African Centre for Childhood’s ability to manage partnerships with the African education institutions that will deliver the programme in-country. Our goal is ambitious but, once established, this programme will make a significant difference to the care and support available to vulnerable children in Sub-Saharan Africa, both now and for generations to come.