"Access to safe, quality education is a right for all children, but in Zambia, children with disabilities are vulnerable to violence at school," says Janet Njelesani, an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy.
In Njelesani's current research study, sponsored by the National Academy of Education (NAEd) and Spencer Foundation, she investigates the nature of disability abuse, its causes and effects, as well as community responses in Zambia.
This past summer, students from NYU's Abu Dhabi campus traveled to Zambia to assist Njelesani in her study. They were selected because they had traveled or worked in South East Africa and came from a range of disciplines, including social research and public policy, psychology, economics, and political science.
Their assignment was to travel around Zambia collecting data on violence against students with disabilities in schools.
The NYU Abu Dhabi research team conducted interviews with teachers and students and led focus groups. Njelesani noted that not only did the NYU students learned how to build rapport with Zambian students, they also learned how to carry out culturally-appropriate, sensitive research that is meaningful to the youth and their communities.
"The experience gave our NYU students an opportunity to see the range of geographies, education opportunities, communities, and cultures in Zambia, a country with 73 tribes," Njelesani said.
The research assistants also met with local government representative and learned how to influence social policy by bringing impactful research to decision makers.
"For NYU students, one of the most rewarding aspects of being on our research team was the opportunity to speak directly with students with disabilities and their teachers who shared their experiences of discrimination, as well as their ideas for change," Njelesani said.
Janet Njelesani Awarded (NAEd)/Spencer Fellowship to Study Violence Against Students with Disabilities in Zambia
Janet Njelesani’s project, “Generating and Preventing Violence: Schools’ Responses to School Violence Against Students with Disabilities in Zambia,” will investigate how social, cultural, and institutional practices influence inclusion, protection, and education for children with disabilities.