In spring 2012, a team from vivo international started a large-scale survey on the psychological health of children at a primary school in Iringa, Tanzania. Iringa is one of the Tanzanian regions that is most affected by HIV/AIDS. vivo international supports the St. Dominic Savio Primary School, a project supporting orphans due to HIV.
The primary school teaches about 1000 children, of which 15% to 20% have lost at least one parent. The orphans live with relatives, in foster families or in the St. Monica’s House, the orphanage of the school.
The psychologists of vivo international in collaboration with Tanzanian psychologists clinically interviewed about 400 children concerning their mental health status. They found that a substantial number of children, especially of the orphans, was affected by the loss of their parents and the current living situation. Domestic violence, neglect, and corporal punishment at the school affected these children severely. School achievement and cognitive ability was negatively influenced by corporal punishment at school and at home, as well as by the psychological problems.
The results of the psychological survey led vivo international and the St. Dominic Savio Primary School to base a permanent school counsellor at the school. Since May 2012, a school counsellor offers psychological support for all children of the school. At the same time she collaborates closely with the teachers to help affected children systematically. Her main focus lies on the work with the orphans. She visits the children in foster families and works closely together with the St. Monica’s House as well as other orphan care centres. Additionally, she offers workshops to teachers, caretakers and parents to raise awareness about the psychological well-being of children and non-violent caretaking. With the engagement of vivo international the psychological suffering of the children is now taken seriously and psychological support can be offered.