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Relations between family situations, social work and schools to foster children’s resilience towards violence: looking at alternative social innovative approaches in Tulkarem, Occupied Territories, Palestine

Timeline: October 2019-October 2020 (due to the pandemic and the impossibility to travel, the project has been put on hold and an extension requested).

Funding organisation: Innovation Starting Grant from HES⁠-⁠SO Leading House for the Middle East and North Africa.

Project description

A study conducted by Birzeit University in 2005 provides an estimate on children’s exposure to violence in the West Bank (cited by UNICEF 2011). Figures indicate that 41% of school students were beaten and 48% verbally abused by their teachers at least once during the previous year; 20% of students acknowledged hitting their teacher and 27% verbally abusing them during the same period; and 21% of students faced severe beating by their peers while 61% faced verbal abuse from other students. Finally, 20% of teachers reported having been submitted to some form of violence by students inside schools, and 30% had endured violence inflicted by parents. Additionally, a 2011 report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reveals that out of a survey sample of 3’891 households in the West Bank, 45,8% of children between 12 and 17 years old were exposed to violence inside the household during the previous year.

This research project aims to look at alternative social innovation approaches in Tulkarem (West Bank) to foster child resilience in situations of violence. It consists in generating knowledge for a longer-term initiative with An-Najah University and the Palestinian Syndicate of Social and Psychological Workers to strengthen and institutionalize social work in Palestine. The research and activities of this proposal will contribute to the design of an interactive, user-friendly online application – or ‘App’ – for actors involved in social work and engaged in mitigating violence. The ‘App’ will connect all actors and academia (both local universities and Swiss academic partners) and will serve as an intervention and capacity-building tool for local stakeholders.

To achieve this, additional research is needed to verify the feasibility of such an ‘App’ by further analyzing the intervention models of social workers in interconnection with their training needs, especially in the occupation context. A more in-depth understanding of the levels and forms of violence, as well as how social workers address this violence  is needed. Probing the strength and weaknesses of their interventions while also analyzing the way they are perceived by the communities they serve can help improve their potential for societal change. Furthermore, through extensive participatory approaches, this project will offer actors in the social sector an opportunity to come together and realize the connections between their fields, which could help foster innovation and creative problem-solving. 

Finally, the ‘App’ will also be used as a pedagogical tool in a future extension of an IHEID Executive Education Programme (Executive Master in Development Policies and Practices, DPP) in order to train development professionals (such as social workers) of the MENA region. This extension is co-constructed with the HETS.



This project is funded through an Innovation Starting Grant of the HES-SO Leading House for the Middle East and North Africa (Haute école specialisée de Suisse occidentale). This grant is aimed at supporting the Swiss research community in developing research cooperation between Switzerland and the MENA region.