Empowering Uganda’s teachers to reduce violence in schools

“Good School Toolkit” initiative cuts teacher violence against school children by 42% in Uganda.

A first-of-its-kind study, published in The Lancet Global Health, on the Good School Toolkit is released on the Day of the African Child (16 June).

The Toolkit

A behavioural intervention designed by Ugandan NGO Raising Voices, the Toolkit aims to foster change in operational culture at the school level. Materials include t-shirts, books, booklets, posters and guides for around 60 different activities. A video by Raising Voices captures the approach in action.

The study

To evaluate the Toolkit’s effectiveness, researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), in partnership with Raising Voices, conducted a randomised controlled trial (RCT) in the Luwero District of Uganda. The trial took place over 18 months with 21 schools in the intervention arm and 21 in the control arm.

Good School 2

The Good School Toolkit for reducing physical violence from school staff to primary school students: a cluster-randomised controlled trial in Uganda


Dr Karen M Devries, PhD, Louise Knight, MSc, Jennifer C Child, MSc, Angel Mirembe, BA, Janet Nakuti, MA, Rebecca Jones, MSc, Joanna Sturgess, MSc, Elizabeth Allen, PhD, Nambusi Kyegombe, PhD, Jenny Parkes, PhD, Eddy Walakira, PhD, Prof Diana Elbourne, PhD, Prof Charlotte Watts, PhD, Dipak Naker, BSc


  • The Toolkit reduced physical violence from school staff by 42%.
  • Although it was highly effective for both sexes, results suggested that the Toolkit was more effective for male students.
  • Students in intervention schools intervention reported improved feelings of well-being and safety at school, suggesting that the Toolkit succeeded in changing the school environment.
  • Despite large reductions, levels of physical violence in the intervention schools remained high, with 30% and 60% of students reporting violence in the past week and past term respectively.

What’s notable about these results is that we found a very large reduction. We don’t normally see a shift of such magnitude. That said, levels of school violence remain high. We need to do more.

Dr Karen Devries, lead author

Listen to Karen Devries discuss the study.

In East Africa, in-school violence is more prevalent than violence by parents. Exposure to physical violence in childhood is associated with, among other negative effects, increased risk of depression and suicide, poor educational results and increased risk of partner violence later on.

In previous research carried out by the team in one Ugandan district, more than 90% of 11 to 14-year-olds reported receiving physical violence from school staff, with 8% reporting extremely severe acts such as choking, burning, stabbing and being severely beaten up. Despite the health burden associated with violence against children, few programmes exist to tackle in-school violence and even fewer have been rigorously evaluated.

Given the prevalence of violence observed in the East African region, the Toolkit or similar programmes may have a major effect on the burden of child maltreatment in countries where violence from school staff is common. Further analyses are underway to explore the effect of the intervention on other forms of violence, including violence from peers. A process evaluation, a qualitative study and an economic evaluation are also underway, with results expected in 2015.

Dr Karen Devries

Further research is needed to examine:

  • if the Toolkit can further reduce levels of violence if implemented over longer time periods
  • whether the effects of the Toolkit are sustainable without ongoing support from Raising Voices
  • what effect the intervention would have at scale
  • how best to scale it up
  • if it has any effects on violence occurring outside of schools

Good School

The research was funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC), UKaid through the Department for International Development (DfID), the Wellcome Trust via the Joint Global Health Trials Scheme, and the Hewlett Foundation. University College London – Institute of Education and Makerere University were partners in the research.

The authors note that, as with violence research in general, the study is based on violence that was reported rather than observed. While school staff (unlike students) might be expected to emphasise an improvement, their reports show very similar effect sizes and direction to those of the students’ reports, lending weight to the results. Students in Ugandan primary schools are slightly older than those in higher income countries, a factor to consider when generalising the results to primary school populations with different age profiles. The results should, however, be generaliseable to most African settings.

Violence by teachers almost halved in primary schools – LSHTM news story

Empowering Uganda’s teachers offers a new route to reducing violence in schools – article in The Conversation

Photo credits: (c) Raising Voices

1 comment

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