Mainstreaming of Psychosocial Support in the Education Sector

Mainstreaming of Psychosocial Support in the Education Sector

Project type:

To build psychosocial support capacity of teachers to change the psychosocial environment of their schools.

Brief description:

Programme to integrate psychosocial support in the education sector.

Project status:


Innovation summary

Education is a critical component of regional and national development1.  Throughout East and Southern Africa, multiple barriers and challenges affect children’s school attendance and performance2.  The goal of the programme was to create inclusive, participatory, safe and protective schools; promote children’s social and emotional learning; promote peer support for teachers; and engage with the community to develop referral systems to local services. This program focused on teachers, the children they teach, and their school environments, including the schools and communities.  

REPSSI, in collaboration with UNICEF, MIET Africa, the Children’s institute at the University of Cape Town, government and academic institutions from 5 countries, developed the Teachers’ Diploma in Psychosocial Care, Support and Protection. The Teachers’ Diploma Programme is a child-centred 15-month long-distance learning programme focused on providing teachers with the knowledge and skills to enhance their school environments, foster psychosocial support, and facilitate school-community relationships. 

Impact summary

  • Teachers (n= 447 Intervention=264; Control=183) and students (n= 1,792, Intervention=1168, Control=624) were assessed at baseline and 15-months at the end of the intervention.
  • Independent t-tests on mean differences indicated significantly greater positive change for:
    • Intervention students compared to control for future orientation-1 (p < .001)
    • Perceived respect in schools (p = .031)
    • School safety (p < .001)
    • Physically bullying others (p = .007) 
    • Emotionally bullying other (p < .001)
    • Students’ ability to seek help and respond to sexual abuse (p = .008) 
  • Perceived social support within schools was significantly greater (p = .051) at post intervention for intervention students
  • The programme cost approximately $3.73 million USD to implement.

When a new teacher comes who does beat the learners one of them comes to an old teacher and asks 'Please would you tell the new teacher that we do not do things that way at this school'.

- Trained teacher


Innovation details

The Situation Analysis of Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children and Youth in 2010 in the Southern African Development Community found that although access to school has improved across the region, there are still a number of barriers to be addressed2. High poverty levels coupled with stigmatisation cause psychological distress which negatively affects the mental and physical health status of orphans and other vulnerable children and ultimately affects their educational outcomes.

The goal of this programme was to:

  • Create schools that are inclusive, allow for participation and are safe environments for children and teachers
  • Promote social and emotional learning of children
  • Promote peer support for teachers
  • Engage with community to develop a clear pathway of referral to local services

The Teachers’ Diploma transforms the way in which a school interacts with learners, their families and the broader community to help all learners achieve their potential.

The course has several cross cutting themes:

  • Children’s rights
  • Child and caregiver participation
  • Safety, protection and discipline
  • Addressing stigma and bullying
  • HIV and AIDS; Gender, sexuality education and disability
  • Understanding and using data of different forms to inform decision making
  •  Networking and building partnerships with the community and other structures
  • Application of learning in the school with other teachers, learners and the broader school community

The six modules of the programme are:

  • Building blocks for a caring school 
  • Realizing your potential as a champion for children 
  • Realizing the potential of children & youth 
  • Realizing the potential of your classroom 
  • Realizing the potential of your school 
  • School and community partnerships to realize children’s potential 


Key drivers

Stakeholder participation and ownership

  • The Ministry of General Education through all its five directorates were highly supportive of the project. The support obtained from the Ministry of Community Development made the rollout of the programme easy.


  • Obtaining the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority(TEVETA) accreditation of the Teachers Diploma in Psychosocial Care, Support and Protection.

The system approach 

  • Taking a holistic system approach rather than picking and choosing one aspect is critical to the sustained changes in the programme.

Sustained capacity development

  • Capacity development over 15 months with practical application, mentoring, support from other teachers on the course as well as from district education offices.




  • Some of the community members could not collaborate with the schools because they were against the sensitisation campaigns on child marriages which were being conducted by the schools.  

Drop out

  • Some of the teachers enrolled on the course at first did not take it very seriously.  So they enrolled for more than one programme and had to drop out of the Psychosocial Support Diploma as it was more work than they had bargained for.



Much of the training was incorporated into preservice training for teachers in Zambia and the whole course has been adopted into preservice training for all primary and secondary school teachers in Eswatini.



  • Ministry of Education, Zambia


  • Comic Relief



Evaluation methods

At the core of the evaluation was the assessment of the extent to which REPSSI had achieved the objectives and outcomes of the Mainstreaming Psychosocial support into Education Sector (MPES) programme. 

  • To assess the effectiveness and efficiency in programme delivery 
  • To evaluate progress made towards achieving the intended impact of the programme.
  • To explore the most effective methodologies and approaches the organisation used to bring about change to people’s lives.
  • To examine how the relationships between partners throughout the relationship chain helped or hindered the delivery of change /outcomes.
  • To analyze the effectiveness of the project’s management, monitoring, learning and financial systems.
  • To understand what worked and what did not work in the implementation of the programme
  • To draw lessons from the implementation process, based on the findings of the evaluation 

Data Collection:

In order to have a comprehensive understanding of the programme, the evaluation gathered both primary and secondary data using qualitative and quantitative research methods. Primary data was collected from stakeholders in districts and colleges of the three implementing provinces namely, Lusaka, Eastern, and Western provinces. Additional qualitative data was collected from the programme staff at the REPSSI country office in Zambia as well as at the regional office. Officials, who had information about the REPSSI programme at the Ministry of Education headquarters, also provided qualitative data. Quantitative data was collected through the review of monitoring and evaluation data, reports and the Randomised Control Trial results provided by REPSSI. Schools and District Education Board Secretaries’ offices also provided some quantitative data on a number of aspects being evaluated. 

Evaluation Outcomes 

The following are the categories under which we report the findings of the evaluation:

  • Relevance and effectiveness of the programme
  • Programme output and impact
  • Effectiveness of methods and strategies used in the programme
  • Integration and replicability of the programme
  • Lessons learnt and recommendations

Cost of implementation

The programme cost approximately $3.73 million USD to implement.

Review of financial data showed that the funds were effectively utilised as most of the resources (79.19%) were allocated towards programme activities.

Impact details

Teachers (n= 447 Intervention=264; Control=183) and students (n= 1,792, Intervention=1168, Control=624) were assessed at baseline and again 15-months at the end of the intervention. 

  • Independent t-tests on mean differences indicated significantly greater positive change for intervention students compared to control for:
    • Set future goals and plans 1 (p < .001) 
    • Perceived respect in schools (p = .031), school safety (p < .001), 
    • Reduction in physically bullying others (p = .007)
    • Reduction in emotionally bullying other (p < .001)
    • Students’ ability to seek help and respond to sexual abuse (p = .008). 
  • Perceived social support within schools was significantly greater (p = .051) at post intervention for intervention students.


  1. SADC (2008) Strategic Framewok and Programme of Action (2008-2015). Comprehensive care and support for orphans, vulnerable, children and youth (OVC&Y).  
  2. SADC (2010) The Situation of Orphans and other Vulnerable Children in the SADC Region, unpublished report, SADC Secretariat.