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August 14, 2018

Early intervention can help address bullying, violence among schoolchildren: study

Karachi

August 14, 2018

A pioneer research in Pakistan has showed a very clear pattern of behavioural change when early intervention is made on young minds.

A dissemination meeting with stakeholders of the project tilted ‘What works to prevent violence among and against children’ was held in Hyderabad on August 8, in which three years of research was presented involving 8,000 students of grades 6th to 8th from 40 public schools selected for the study.

As many as 1,752 boys and girls of the total students were evaluated. The project was funded by DFID UK, through the Medical Research Council of South Africa. The project in Pakistan was implemented by Right to Play, a global NGO, and evaluated by Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.

This pioneer research also showed a remarkable difference in improvement when it came to peer victimisation which reduced by 33 per cent in boys and 59 per cent in girls. Similarly, when it comes to violence and bullying perpetrators, there is also a corresponding reduction by 25 per cent in boys and 56 per cent in girls.

Depression which is still not acknowledged even in adults in Pakistan was also part of the assessment, and the two-year intervention showed a seven and 10 per cent reduction in boys and girls respectively. Moreover, gender norms and attitudes showed a positive change of 14 per cent in boys and 18 per cent in girls.

Dr Judith McFarlane, Dr Rachel Jewkes from South Africa and the USA respectively, and Dr Rozina Karmaliani as a principal investigator from the AKU, Pakistan, highlighted the importance of the project, especially in the Pakistan context which is a highly patriarchal, developing society where corporal punishment and violence is widespread both in society and at domestic level.

Mr zulfiqar, manager Right to Play, highlighted the importance of addressing violence among schoolchildren at an early stage through play-based learning transformation. The importance was also given to the fact that intolerance and violent behavior had become a norm of our society.

Dr Rachel noted that 17 projects in 13 countries were being run under a global program focusing on violence against women and girls. Dr Judith from Texas Women University was the advisor for the project in Pakistan and explained the importance of research strategy and methods.

Dr Rozina Karmaliani and her team of the AKU (Dr Tazeen, Sayed Ali, Dr Nargis Asad, Shireen Shahzad and Hussain Maqbool) explained that the study had found that the Right To Play intervention was effective in reducing violence at schools and home. Also, it brought about gender equality among children, and improved their mental health by reducing depression.

She added that in Pakistan, Right To Play has an important contribution to make to building peace and social harmony.

A report on the findings was also presented to policymakers and other stakeholders in Islamabad on August 6, where prominent experts at the panel reflected on the research and gave their opinions, saying that it was time they started looking at violence in a more holistic way rather just as a crime.

They suggested ideas to scale up and institutionalise this intervention and taking it forward by involving teachers, parents and media. Among the panelist were AA Akif, cabinet secretary, Government of Pakistan; Khawar Mumtaz from the NCSW; Dr Anjum Halai of the AKU; and Dr Huma Baqai from the IBA.

The meeting was moderated by Kausar S Khan of the AKU. It concluded with remarks from Nilofer Javaid, education specialist at the DFID UK in Pakistan, who shared that minority, displaced and disabled children were a priority as they were the most vulnerable to becoming victims of violence.

The dissemination meeting was attended by a large number of people involving officials from the Sindh education sector, head teachers, students and their parents, members of the civil society, NGOs, media and activists.

Dr Mohammad Memon, Chairman of the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Hyderabad, was the guest of honour. Dr Memon emphasised the need to address the issue at grassroots level, and said this study and its findings were very important for policymakers, educational institutions and society for future interventions.

Lala Rukh Rafi, education specialist of Right to Play, moderated the programs, and Abdul Majeed Bhurt, executive director STEDA, Qamer Shahid Siddiqui, director general PITE, Syed Rasool Bux, director school education Hyderabad Division, and Iqbal Ahmed Memon, additional director school education, also spoke on the research findings and their importance.