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Iran: Psychosocial Rehabilitation program for Bam Teachers

In the aftermath of the tragic Bam earthquake, the Science and Arts Foundation planned and implemented a number of programs aimed at the psychosocial rehabilitation of children in Bam (see

Most fundamentally, Dr. Kamran Saedi, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist based in London and a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK with disaster work experience in Kosovo and Cambodia, made two fact finding trips to Bam on behalf of SAF in February/March and very recently in October/November 2004. According to his evaluation, a large number of teachers suffer from continued anxiety and fear, lack of sleep and poor concentration which interferes with their work. Grieving their families lost in the earthquake and preoccupation with the scenes of the disaster are still vividly experienced in many cases. Their psychological plight is compounded by poor social conditions i.e. overcrowded housing in temporary prefabricated rooms, especially for families with teenage girls, financial hardship and lack of hope for a stable existence within a foreseeable future.

Approximately 1,700 teachers have survived the earthquake and they must work extra shifts to teach more children in temporary classrooms while school reconstructions are in progress. Following these findings, it became clear that the teachers of Bam need help to cope with their own traumatisation in addition to assisting their students. As a result, Dr. Saedi proposed a program of treatment and counseling specifically designed for teachers in Bam.

For the first phase of the project, which has been funded by CISCO and World Vision, twelve mental health professionals (psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and social workers) have recently been recruited to work with the teachers in Bam. The preparation program for these mental health professionals is due to start on the 27th of November in Tehran and will be led by two Iranian and two international instructors. Training will be based on findings from the recent school visits and evaluations. Negotiations with the Ministry of Education have been successful in allowing Bam teachers who have volunteered for group intervention to participate in the program as part of their continued service, this will also symbolically counter the teachers' hopelessness and help them to think ahead to their future.

The treatment and counseling program itself will start in Bam on the 4th of December 2004 and will last for a month, covering a total of 250 teachers from primary, guidance, secondary and pre-university schools. The work will stop for three days in order for the project workers to participate in the ceremonies planned for the first anniversary of the earthquake on the 26th of December 2004.

Almost all the teachers in the schools visited so far have volunteered for the program. While this exceeds the number of spaces available in the first phase of the project, it is hoped that additional funding will be granted for further intervention programs so that all teachers in Bam can be covered.

... Payvand News - 11/22/04 ... --

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