The impact of the school-based Psychosocial Structured Activities (PSSA) program on conflict-affected children in Northern Uganda

Children in northern Uganda have undergone significant psychosocial stress during the region’s lengthy conflict. A Psychosocial Structured Activities (PSSA) programme was implemented in 21 schools identified as amongst those most severely affected by conflict-induced displacement across Gulu and Amuru Districts. The PSSA intervention comprised a series of 15 class sessions designed to progressively increase children’s resilience through structured activities involving drama, movement, music and art (with additional components addressing parental support and community involvement).

This article highlights that significant increases in ratings of child well-being were observed in both intervention and comparison groups over a 12-month period. However, the well-being of children who had received the PSSA intervention increased significantly more than for children in the comparison group, as judged by child and parent (but not teacher) report. This effect was evident despite considerable loss-to-follow-up at post-testing as a result of return of many households to communities of origin. The article concludes that general improvement in child well-being over a 12-month period suggests that recovery and reconstruction efforts in Northern Uganda following the onset of peace had a substantive impact on the lives of children. However, exposure to the PSSA program had an additional positive impact on child well-being, suggesting its value in post-conflict recovery contexts.

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