– 21 December 2018
Tackling behavioural problems in at-risk children
An innovative ‘Development through art’ initiative in Egypt is using dance and drama to address behavioural issues in children at risk of losing parental care. SOS Children’s Villages developed the programme as a means of improving children’s communication skills and confidence – the lack of which is a major cause of behavioural problems in childhood.
The Harakat Artistic Group for Performing and Visual Arts in Cairo is supporting 150 children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the region. Children are encouraged to explore their problems in a positive way through a variety of artistic activities including acting, pantomime, music and painting. As well as developing their creativity and self-esteem the group teaches children to embrace the values of self-acceptance and the acceptance of others.
The therapeutic effect of art, particularly with regards emotional development and enhanced learning and creativity, is well documented. The programme has also proven effective at improving children’s academic achievement, with four out of five participants benefiting from improved grades and a corresponding rise in the number of children being accepted into university.
Harakat Theatre Director Mostafa Hozayen said: “The children in our programme are from environments in which violence is predominant, at home and in the community, and this negatively affects their behaviour.
“One of the most notable impacts we have seen in the children is how it has made them view violence differently. Art educates, it makes them see violence as something unacceptable and realise there are many non-violent ways to solve their problems. They realise they are part of a group and have a role to play. When they first join the programme, children tend to think of performing violent scenes, but that changes within one year or less.
“We also try to address negative social norms such as drugs and early marriage. Art can transform children into contributing members of society who are able to positively influence people - within their own families and communities. We have girls in the group who were able to reject pressure to marry young and progress into higher education. For me, the most important thing is that children become more ambitious and successful individuals.”
SOS Children’s Villages family strengthening coordinators and psychologists also provide regular group workshops and individual sessions to the children’s families. This enables them to address obstacles that could hinder the children’s development within the programme.
Mostafa added: “No matter how much time the children spend with us, at the end of the day they go back to their homes where the problems of violence and child labour still exist. We encourage them to open up about the problems they are facing at home, so we can help solve them. Often in the beginning parents do not encourage their children to be part of the programme, but once they attend their shows and see them performing on stage they are so moved by their achievements that they start encouraging them and offering to help us.”
The SOS Children’s Villages family strengthening team in Egypt works in partnership with local civil society organisations and institutions to empower families and prevent family breakdown and the loss of parental support. Since 2005, they have helped 360 families achieve financial independence and improve their familial relationships with vocational and parenting training. They also offer at-risk children educational and psychological support.
You can find out more about our family strengthening programmes worldwide here.
Notes to editors:
For media enquiries please contact Lucy Prioli at Lucy.Prioli@sosuk.org or on 01223 222 974.