As a result of the increasing mental health need for students and teachers because of the ongoing Anglophone crisis that have since 2016 been affecting the English-Speaking regions of Cameroon (North West and South West), RuWCED organized a 3days training with Guidance Counselors, and other school administrators on "Trauma Informed Approaches and Psycho-social interventions in Fragile, Conflict-affected and Vulnerable (FCV) Settings" in Bafoussam, Cameroon.
The objectives of the training was to ensure teachers in communities affected by conflict are empowered to meet the developmental and emotional needs of children/students, as well as to examine the role of teachers in providing psychosocial support and building resilience in children. The focus of this training was on the Psychosocial Care and Protection of Children during emergencies including a general introduction of what Psycho-social well-being as well as mental health is all about. The provision of psychosocial support by teachers, the building of resilience in children during an emergency, effective communication and an introduction to psychosocial activities and interventions were also discussed with the participants. Participants were given an insight into the experiences of survivors of the crisis, helping them understand the context in which we are working and the need for trauma informed approaches.
Some victims of the crisis shared their lived experiences and the trauma they went through. We had testimonies from both teachers and students. Some teachers shared how they were abducted and tortured. Some Students equally shared how they were abducted and tortured. One victim (student) shared how she was raped by her teacher and she later discovered that she got pregnant, while another student shared how she ‘blacked out’ during a visitation by gunmen to her school, which later led to her being unable to speak because of the trauma. The shared experiences by some students and teachers during this training, who had all been victims of the ongoing crisis show how important guidance counselors and school administrators need effective training on trauma informed approaches and psycho-social interventions in Fragile, Conflict-affected and Vulnerable (FCV) settings.
During the training, practical psycho-social activities and intervention strategies were introduced. These activities were meant to provide an opportunity to observe and identify the needs of students via natural interactions with them -privately or as a group-, in order to build self-esteem, integration, and socialization. Some of these practical activities included; "Why writing your name matters", - “Colour talk", - Cooperative Squares, - Individual reflection time, - Bouncing Back, - Time Chairs, - Willow in the wind, - The balloon game, as well as - Art spaces.
The final day of the training centered on mental health service delivery, with participants reflecting on the Kumba-Fiango massacre and imagining a whole-school multi-level prevention and intervention program.
At the end of the training, participants received certificates of participation and expressed their commitment to implementing the knowledge and skills gained, particularly the psycho-social activities, in their respective institutions. The training provided participants with a deeper understanding of mental health service delivery, trauma informed educational approaches, and the social-emotional development of teachers, ultimately contributing to the well-being of students and teachers affected by the Anglophone crisis.
So far, we have an interactive WhatsApp group with over 183 active members made up of Counsellors and school administrators.