Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI)

Filling the Mental Health Gap: Psychosocial Wellbeing for Africa’s Children

Lead Organization

Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI)

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

10% of children in East and Southern Africa suffer from anxiety, grief, trauma and depression due to exposure to violence, early marriage, socioeconomic injustice, conflict and HIV/AIDS. Children have limited access to mental health services, compounded by the workforce being unable to address children’s psychosocial issues. REPSSI’s 17 years of experience has shown that building psychosocial support capacity for those that work with children makes them better able to strengthen children’s mental health and resilience, concurrently reducing vulnerability. Through existing partnerships with governments and academic institutions in 14 African countries, we will scale up trainings to deliver cost effective and tested psychosocial qualifications for those that work with children, resulting in schools and communities that promote mental health. Vulnerable children will receive improved care and protection from trained teachers and community workers, enhancing children’s resilience and wellbeing. Resilient children are more able to absorb and survive challenges and consequently thrive.

Problem Statement

Children in Africa are exposed to a myriad of challenges such as HIV/AIDS, sexual and gender-based violence, conflict, giving rise to and perpetrating depression, suicide, anxiety, abuse, stigmatization, bullying, exclusion and marginalization. 60% of the world’s adolescents living with HIV reside in East and Southern Africa (ESA); 10.5 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. These problems are exacerbated by structural poverty and inequality, limited adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (ASRHR) and social services in general. 10% of children in ESA suffer from mental health disorders which significantly hinders socioeconomic participation.Social service workers provide care, support, rights and empowerment for vulnerable groups. Few trained community and social service workers exist in ESA, compounded by high caseloads and challenging working conditions leading to high staff turnover. Enabling this workforce to deliver quality services and mainstream PSS offers a leverage point to reduce child vulnerability and strengthen resilience.Throughout ESA, multiple psychosocial barriers exist for children to access quality education, hindering their educational performance. Many schools perpetrate abuse within practices of corporal punishment, bullying, gender discrimination and inadequate socioemotional learning approaches. Training teachers in PSS and child protection will reach exponential numbers of at-risk children: training one or two teachers per school will impart positive impact for thousands of children. Limited accessible training courses exist for teachers and community/social workers in ESA. The courses will enable deliverance of HIV prevention and support services. Recent research highlights preventative program expansion can more than half HIV infection incidences.

Solution Overview

Teachers and social/community workers in 14 countries will be trained annually over 5 years using 2 learning methods to enable teachers and social/community workers to better provide psychosocial support and protection for children at risk. The 2 evidence-based scale-able courses are the Teachers Diploma in Psychosocial Care, Support and Protection, and the Certificate Course in Community Based Work with Children and Youth. 26,400 teachers and community workers will be trained over 5 years.Both courses adopt either a situated supported distance learning (SSDL) methodology or e-learning deliverance structure where students follow evidence-based psychosocial support practice modules. SSDL: participants formulate study groups to support each other’s learning, attend lecture sessions and submit assignments including practical service-learning projects to academic institutions. E-learning: online moderated discussion forums enable peer learning, moderators monitor the course online, mark assignments and provide mentorship support.Teachers will be capacitated to transform schools into psychosocially conducive environments, examining diverse learning styles, socioemotional learning, non-violent discipline, bullying, child rights and participation. The Community Based Work program professionalizes the workforce in PSS and child protection without removing workers from their communities, where their service is most needed. Both interventions will result in a strengthened social workforce to increase children’s protection, care and resilience.Progress will be measured via tracking the number of social/community workers and teachers trained, monitoring the number of children reached and their improved protection, resilience and psychosocial wellbeing. Partnerships with government ministries, social services and schools enables advocacy for PSS mainstreaming, reaching further teachers and social/community workers.

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Project Funders

  • AusAid 2010 - 2015

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