The earthquake in Nepal, April 2015, had devastating physical and psychosocial consequences on children. The deconstruction of schools and homes lead to the displacement of families and had a severe negative impact on the learning environment of students. Finn Church Aid (FCA) and its implementing partner Centre for Mental Health and Counselling – Nepal (CMC-Nepal) assessed the needs, targeting affected children, teachers and parents. The assessment provided evidence of a negative impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of the children. More than 60% suffered from sleep problems along with other expressions of distress, such as bullying, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, anxiousness, and bed-wetting.
Between July 2016 and March 2017 CMC-Nepal engaged with students, teachers, representatives from school management committees, and parents in 61 schools in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Gorkha, Makwanpur, and Sindhuli district. A female and male teacher at each school received training to become psychosocial focal teachers. They then shared their new skills to other teachers, always keeping in mind the need to engage both female and male teacher.
Teachers were trained on how to identify children with emotional and behavioural problems, provide psychosocial support, on tools to practice psychosocial intervention in the classrooms. The teachers also learned how to do child-friendly classroom management and use a positive disciplinary approach to promote positive manner in the students without giving punishment, and became aware of gender issues, abusive behaviour by parents, social stigma and mental health issues. To support of teachers, a peer support network for teachers was created targeting all 61 schools, and supervision and monitoring provided by program facilitators. Students with a need for individual support could receive this from the psychosocial focal teachers, and identify children in need of more specialized support were referred to specialists at CMC – Nepal in Kathmandu.
Within the project's holistic perspective, activities were conducted to support the shaping of child-friendly families and communities. Parents received psycho education on how to support their children, enhancing their knowledge about their responsibility for the children and how they could have an important role in positively impacting the children’s education. Family members and community members indirectly benefitted from these training, shaping a knowledge of how to minimize conflicts in families and communities, and of positive behaviour to each other.
The joint actions have led to improved students learning, more regular attendance and students being more willing to share their feelings. As a result, parents, teachers and the school administration have realized that psychosocial support is always necessary for schools, for the psychosocial wellbeing of children, and ultimately for quality learning. The changes and understandings of the stakeholders on psychosocial support serve as preparedness for responding to future disasters and consequences for children.
Sustainability can be seen in that 20 of the program-implemented schools established psychosocial counselling units within the project’s short duration, while most of the schools committed to continue with psychosocial support and provide additional support to students with emotional and behavioural problems and learning difficulties. The activities will also be replicated in other schools.