Clowns Without Borders UK (CWB UK) will be visiting FDMN in Cox’s Bazar January 20- February 2, 2
After recruiting 20 new Shomaj Shongees on July-2013, and extending its SRHRG and Counseling modules through them to help in SSCOPE schools, it was important to understand the processes and progresses of this new aspect of the new model to help the program move forward. Hence this qualitative action research, which was aimed at making a ‘situation analysis’ of the program with specific focus on the new components of SRHRG counseling and psychosocial counseling through the role of the SS. The main objective of the research was to do a situation analysis of overall cohesiveness of the program and specifically generate information on the SRHRG counseling segments of the program in order to facilitate its future design and implementation planning.
The sites of research study can be divided into two areas:
- Head office - including all SSCOPE teams at their work places
- Fieldwork - including 6 schools from 3 branches. The method of school selection was collaborated with the SSCOPE Monitoring unit, and thus the same 6 schools were selected for both monitoring and current research.
Timeframe: 3 months (July-September)
Month 1: Document analysis and observation of HO teams, training session of SS.
Month 2: Continuation of document analysis, participatory observation and preparation/planning of fieldwork
Month 3: Field visits to 6 schools, interviews and FGDs conducted. Interviews and FGDs conducted in HO and also with SS and FOO.
Students’ Opinion: Psychosocial Counseling:
- Learning new concepts like ‘stress management’, ‘anxiety’, ‘positive behavior’ etc.
- It was not very common for students to individually go to SS to discuss personal problems or issues, (at least until mid-September). Some students did admit publicly (in classroom amongst everyone) that they did approach SS regarding some personal issues and received useful tips, helps and support.
- Learning that class conflicts and feuds are to be reported, resolved and then lessened
- Students now not only behave in a better and respectful way towards elders, siblings and friends, but they are also able to transfer this knowledge to others.
- Some students reported to have better overall performances in schools.
Shomaj Shongee (SS): The Shomaj Shongee program was created to aid in the operations conducted by the SRHRG and Counseling units. They were to provide accurate information regarding the challenges faced during adolescence, develop students’ knowledge and be there for the students to discourse with regarding some of their personal issues while remaining unbiased and detaching themselves from any preconceived notions. Shomaj Shongees then discuss the issues being talked about with parents and attempt to transfer to them some much needed parenting skills in this area.
Students’ Perceptions, Experiences and Reflections: Students use various names for SS: Bondhu/friend, Shomaj Shebok, Shomaj Kormee, Shongee etc. Students love this new addition to their school and student life. SS is considered and termed as ‘fun’, ‘approachable’, ‘role model’, ‘friendly’ and ‘trustworthy’. They like and prefer staying back in school for SS rather than returning home where many feel lonely and bored. The first and foremost role of SS is viewed as an “Absentee collector” and “Entertainer”. Her sessions are often quoted or described as a ‘cultural and entertainment session’. SS are reported to visit homes and talk to parents, especially regarding the importance of sending their children to school regularly. Students observe that parents are rather happy that the school, through SS, is taking active interest and efforts to ensure attendance. The fact that there is someone who cares about a young person when one is ill, absent, or stressed is highly appreciated and valued. Students are even ready to have longer and more sessions. Even though students seemed enthusiastic and positive about SS, they were often unsure of the purpose of the sessions, especially the older students.
Guidelines for discussion and counseling topics: There is a need for a wider range of topics for discussions with parents, both during home visits and parents/Maa-shobhas. By now, topics have reached a saturation point and are becoming repetitive.
Training: The general opinion is that training for both components (SRHRG and Psychosocial Counseling) is going well and that counseling training sessions and modules are better compared to the initial one. A suggestion for counseling training module was to be little more detailed so that SS can refer to the module in time of need (detail discussions during training sessions can be incorporated in the written modules). Both teams are very supportive, encouraging and flexible (in terms of delivery style etc.). Trainings and field visits are making SS confident and access to team members is highly valued.
- Need specific time and space for individual counseling sessions;
- A workshop or meeting at branch level with teachers and admin so that relevance, roles and responsibilities are made clear to everyone;
- More appreciation and better understanding from management regarding their work.
- The prevalent idea is that SS is appointed to ‘fetch’ absentee students, resulting in less active role of class teachers and FOO in attendance related work. Also, some SS feel they are undervalued and unappreciated by management and often treated harshly, which works as a de-motivating factor.
Challenges and way forward:
- Review, reorganization and collaboration if we take some of the objectives of the SRHRG and Counseling components, and what these goals require in the light of our current experiences and knowledge will make it clear that collaboration and coordination has become key to our eventual success.
- Combined field visits as both the teams work towards one broader goal in addition to often overlapping specific goals, and their modules are designed for the same SS and student body. It will be useful to arrange a regular set of combined field visits.
- In training it is important that we have shared experiences of training skills, especially suggestions, tips and guidance from experienced trainers from different teams can help others to learn, adopt and improvise training tools, styles and methods so that each component can give cohesive and effective training to SS, who, as a result, would learn to easily link the two aspects of her job efficiently.
- Capacity building to have a continuously evolving and effective program, it is vital that scopes of capacity building especially in curriculum and content development (to keep these updated and socially adaptable) for team members are needed.
- Action Research: Action research conducted on a regular basis will keep the program moving forward, but it will also train some good in-house researchers, resulting in thesis, publications and sharing of knowledge – attributes that are integral part of an academic/educational Institute like the BIED.