Bumping along in the back of a 4X4 down a remote potholed road, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University is fired with enthusiasm.
Professor Andrew Hamilton has just visited the township of King Williams Town and its surrounding villages to witness a remarkable new social intervention in action. He has met schoolchildren, clowns and a village chief, all taking part in an initiative to reduce the abuse of children in some of South Africa’s poorest communities.
The intervention, the Sinovuyo Caring Families Project for Parents and Teens, has been devised by researchers from Oxford University working with the University of Cape Town (UCT), UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and the South African Government. Teenagers, their parents and carers meet in groups every week to sing songs, learn relaxation techniques – and to discuss frankly the extreme pressures of family life in a poverty-stricken area where unemployment touches 90 per cent.
A team led by Dr Lucie Cluver, of Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention, has completed a trial of a 12-week version of the programme involving 130 families from six villages. A larger scale study is under way. Some 500 families – 1000 participants - are taking part in a 14-week version, which now also includes workshops on family budgetary planning.