The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to have a devastating impact, particularly on the lives of sub- Saharan African children. In addition to reversing the downward secular trend in infant and child mortality, HIV/AIDS has orphaned millions of children. Substantial progress has been made in reducing mother-to-child transmission, but rates of orphanhood continue to climb despite increased availability of antiretroviral therapy. UNAIDS estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014, 11 million children under the age of 18 had lost one or both of their parents to AIDS (UNAIDS 2016). Recent empirical evidence suggests that children in sub-Saharan Africa who have suffered parental loss are at risk of poorer educational outcomes (Beegle, de Weerdt and Dercon 2006; Bicego, Bicego et al 2003; Case, Paxson and Ableidinger 2004; Evans and Miguel 2007; Guarcello et al. 2004; Monasch and Boerma 2004; Ardington and Leibbrandt 2010; Case and Ardington 2006; Ardington 2009). In South Africa, there are significant differences in the impact of a mother and a father’s death. The loss of a child’s mother is a strong predictor of poor schooling outcomes, while the loss of a child’s father is a significant correlate of poor household socioeconomic status. In two localised longitudinal studies, Case and Ardington (2006) and Ardington and Leibbrandt (2009) use the timing of mothers’ deaths relative to children’s educational shortfalls to argue that mothers’ deaths have a causal effect on children’s education. They cannot, however, answer the question of why children whose mothers have died fall behind in school.