A new project, led by experts from the University of Nottingham, has received international funding to help improve the emotional, economic and behavioural resilience of students to Covid-19 in African Universities.
The project, jointly led by experts from the University of Zambia, has received funding from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.
The funding will enable experts from the UK and across developing countries, to work in partnership to address the negative psychological and economic impacts of Covid-19 on communities that are already vulnerable due to long-term conflict, food and water shortages and crowded living conditions.
Professor Cris Glazebrook from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, and Professor Anitha Menon from the University of Zambia, are leading the project in collaboration with Professor Heather Wharrad in the School of Health Sciences and Bethan Davies from MIndTech (at the University of Nottingham) and academics from the Universities of Malawi, Copperbelt and Apex in Zambia.
The team are also working with a local NGO, BongoHive, to produce a culturally sensitive and engaging online education programme (Covid-19 Education for African Students – COVEDAS),to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The pandemic has increased rates of mental health problems in students, which can impact negatively on academic performance. This is a particular concern in low-income countries, such as Zambia and Malawi, where students have limited access to mental health services.
As part of the project, the team will increase emotional resilience in vulnerable students by providing access to moodgym – an interactive, online therapy that helps people to learn and practice skills to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The team will collect feedback from the prevention programme and survey data before and after the moodgym/ Covid-19 prevention programme intervention to look for improvements in depression, academic performance and Covid-19 prevention behaviours. They will also check whether benefits are felt equally by men and women.
They will interview participants to try to understand how moodgym helped them and to explore their feelings about the impact of Covid-19 on their mood and studies.
The findings will help to establish if this is a sustainable and effctive model for supporting the mental and physical health of students in low income countries.
These awards are the second tranche announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.
After a first group of 20 projects were funded in August, it means a total of 39 partnerships are working across every part of the Global South investigating everything from improving health systems in Africa to how the pandemic is affecting fishing communities, displaced people and people with disabilities.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Defeating coronavirus is a truly global endeavour, which is why we’re backing Britain’s scientists and researchers to work with their international counterparts to find tech solutions to treat and combat this virus around the world.
“The research projects we are backing will ensure that we equip some of the most vulnerable communities with the resources they need to tackle Covid-19 and build their long-term resilience to respond to future pandemics, making us all safer.
“UKRI launched the call to address the urgent need to understand the specific challenges faced by some of the world’s poorest people in the face of this global crisis.”