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PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT OF MASSIVE NATURAL DISASTER ON SCHOOL STUDENTS – A SIGNIFICANT BUT UNSEEN ASPECT OF SCHOOL MANAGEMENT IN POST DISASTER SCENARIO – A STUDY FROM RURAL NEPAL

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Journal of Management (JOM)
Volume 6, Issue 2, March-April 2019, pp. 121-129, Article ID: JOM_06_02_015
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ISSN Print: 2347-3940 and ISSN Online: 2347-3959
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PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT OF MASSIVE
NATURAL DISASTER ON SCHOOL STUDENTS
– A SIGNIFICANT BUT UNSEEN ASPECT OF
SCHOOL MANAGEMENT IN POST DISASTER
SCENARIO – A STUDY FROM RURAL NEPAL.
Boby Joseph Thadathil SJ
Research scholar, Singhania University, Rajasthan
ABSTRACT
Aim of this study was to assess the psychological impact of the 2015 Nepal
earthquakes on students in rural Nepal. A total of 1001 school students from 19 schools
in four of the worst affected districts were included in the study by stratified random
sampling. A survey questionnaire was administered in the local language after
obtaining necessary permissions and verbal consent. An overwhelming majority of
students reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress during the post-earthquake period.
80.9% of students suffered from fear of another earthquake, 73% reported loss of
appetite and 78.3% reported loss of sleep, 37.9% of students reported inability to
concentrate on studies and 48.7% of students suffered from feeling of constant strain.
Loss of sleep, loss of appetite and feeling of constant strain was significantly higher
among female students.There was no correlation between inability to concentrate and
gender of students. There was significant correlation between loss of family members
or friends with inability to concentrate, feeling of constant strain and feeling unhappy
or depressed.There was highly significant correlation between injury sustained during
earthquake and fear of another earthquake, inability to concentrate and feeling
unhappy or depressed. There was highly significant correlation between loss of pets and
inability to concentrate, inability to enjoy day-to-day activities, feeling of constant
strain and feeling unhappy or depressed. To conclude, psychological impact of natural
disasters is often unseen but is of much greater magnitude than physical damage.
Keywords: Earthquake;psychological impact; students; rural Nepal
Cite this Article: Boby Joseph Thadathil SJ, Psychological Impact of Massive Natural
Disaster on School Students – A Significant but Unseen Aspect of School Management
in Post Disaster Scenario – A Study from Rural Nepal, International Journal of
Management, 10 (2), 2019, pp. 121-129.
http://www.iaeme.com/IJM/issues.asp?JType=IJM&VType=10&IType=2
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1. INTRODUCTION
Two earthquakes and multiple aftershocks that struck Nepal in April- May 2015 affected a total
of 8308 schools (42% of Nepal’s schools) (Event recap report, 2015Aon), The fact that both
the earthquakes occurred on school holidays saved a lot of children’s lives. Even so, children
are one of the most vulnerable groups during a natural disaster. Often rural children are hit the
worst. Profound sadness for the loss of homes, parents or other family members, fear of future
disasters and disruption of schooling have a major psychological impact on young minds. In
addition, lack of security and safety in makeshift tents and temporary shelters make them
vulnerable to exploitation. Rural children are often expected to bear the additional burden of
helping the family earn a living in times of natural disaster and hence drop out of school. (Nepal
Children’s Earthquake Recovery Consultation, 2015)
Management of educational institutions after the disaster needs a lot of time and space to
create a positive environment in education. Management has to deal with the aftermath of
destruction, building of temporary shelters, reconstruction of permanent structures, and at the
same time keepup the morale of students and teachers. The psychological imprint of a disaster
is often of a greater magnitude than the physical damage and the scars left behind may never
heal. There is very little literature on the psychological impact of natural disasters on school
children from Nepal.
2. AIM OF THE STUDY
This study aims to record the psychological impact of the 2015 earthquakes on school children
in four of the worst affected districts of rural Nepal. The researcher aims to record the frequency
of symptoms of post-traumatic stress and assess its correlation with demographic, sociocultural
and other factors.
3. LITERATURE REVIEW
Psychosocial impacts of a natural disaster are wide ranging and pervasive across all societal
barriers. More persons are harmed psychologically than physically (Shultz et al, 2013) The
psychological footprint of the disaster is larger than the medical footprint and worse still, it is
often ignored. Eventhough many people in the disaster zone escape physical harm, they will
suffer from distress, anxiety, stress reactions, fear and sometimes bereavement and grief. Those
who sustain physical injuries will also have an added psychological burden of injury related
mental stress and increased chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD)
(Zatzick, 2007). In natural disasters resulting in major casualty, the entire community will go
through prolonged grief with many of the survivors often having to deal with the loss of multiple
close relatives and friends.Hazard characteristics that determine the severity, duration and
extent of psychological reactions have been studied. Shultzet al (2007) postulated the disaster
characteristics which include 1) absolute magnitude or intensity 2) duration of exposure to
hazards 3) frequency of the episodes 4) proximity to the geographical epicentre of destruction
and 5) scope and scale of destruction which includes the area impacted and the number of
people affected by the disaster.
For a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD, the student must have experienced a trauma which is
perceived as a threat to oneself or others and must experience distress (horror, helplessness and
fear). Symptoms for PTSD in children included re-experiencing, numbing and avoidance,
symptoms of hyperarousal like irritability, sleeplessness and not participating in activities
previously enjoyed. PTSD is a frequent disorder in populations exposed to trauma and is
classified as an anxiety disorder with 3 symptoms- re-experiencing, avoidance and
hyperarousal, all three of which should be present for one month after the disaster and should
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Psychological Impact of Massive Natural Disaster on School Students – A Significant but Unseen
Aspect of School Management in Post Disaster Scenario – A Study from Rural Nepal
result in impaired functioning.(Shultz 2013) . The prevalence of PTSD in direct victims of
natural disasters reported in literature is 30-40% (Shultz, 2013)
In a study by Math SB et al (2008) following tsunami in Andaman and Nicobar islands, it
was found that only few of the survivors had psychological disturbances. The most common
were adjustment disorder, depression, PTSD and panic disorder in descending order.The factors
increasing resilience were family systems, religious faith and culture. In the tribal community,
joint families were common and this was important in reducing psychiatric morbidity among
children. Even the children who lost their parents were cared for by the clan. Religious and
family rituals helped the children to deal with their grief. They found that only a minority of
the survivors required individual intervention. Others were fine with community based
interventions. Cultural differences may have a significant role in the psychological impact of a
disaster on a community/ individual. Kar et al (2007) stated that manifestation of PTSD may
vary according to cultural differences in susceptibility to stress, support networks and coping
strategies. Goenjian et al (1995) found that there are differences in psychiatric morbidity
following natural disasters in communities in developing countries and those in the United
States.
Psychological first aid is skills that can be taught to the students by the school staff so that
they can deal with the traumatic event. Interagency Standing Committee guidelines list the
components of first aid, including protecting survivors from further harm, identifying and
providing support for the most distressed, re-establishing social supports, returning to familiar
routines, facilitating communication between students, parents and agencies involved in
disaster.LPC (Listen- protect- connect) is an evidence informed model which is a form of
psychological first aid focusing on children. LPC uses teachers, parents and primary care
providers to give basic psychological support. It is a version of psychological first aid designed
to reduce initial stress following a disaster and helps the student to return to school and resume
learning. (Kataoka et al, 2012)
4. MATERIALS AND METHODS
This study was done after obtaining permission from the district educational officer, school
management committee and headmasters of the schools. A total of 19 rural schools were
selected from 4 of the worst affected districts in Nepal, namely Gorkha, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre
and Dholakha. In each school,students from Class seven to Class twelve were randomly
included in the study. Total number of respondents included 1001 students. A structured survey
questionnaire was used for data collection. The questions were prepared based on the objectives
of the study and translated to the local Nepali dialects. The researcher was present during
administration of the questionnaire and explained the theme, the purpose and the objectives of
the study to the participants.Verbal consent was sought and all those who did not wish to
participate were excluded from the study. The researcher stayed with the participants from the
start to finish, in order toattend to any questions or clarifications.All the participants were
assuredof anonymity and that the information requested was used for the purpose of this
research only. Data was collected in February- March 2017.
5. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
The respondents were from the worst hit districts in Nepal (See table 1). Totally 29.1% of
students interviewed lost a friend/ family member in the earthquake. 94.3% of children
interviewed in Kavre, 99.5% in Sindhupalchowk, 97.0% in Dolakha and 93.6% in Gorkha
reported that their homes had been damaged by the earthquake. 34.3% of children interviewed
were injured during the quake ranging from 34.1% in Kavre to 45.6% in
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Sindhupalchowk. 31.8% of children lost their pets/ domestic animals in the quake. The
earthquake happened on a Saturday, an official and school holiday, 61.7% children were at
home when the disaster struck, 7.5% at the market and 15.8% in the fields, 14.6% were at other
places. Only 0.4% of students were in schools at the time of the disaster. These findings indicate
the severity of the damage wreaked by the quake and that an overwhelming majority of the
students interviewed have suffered in some way or the other as a result of the quake.
Table 1: Demographic characteristics of the sample
Students
Districts
Kavre
Sindhupalchowk
Dolakha
Gorkha
Total
N
Age of students
991
Range
23
Frequency
247
218
269
265
999
Minimum Maximum
7
30
Mean
15.35
Percent
24.7
21.8
26.9
26.5
100.0
Std. Deviation
1.635
The majorityof the students interviewed in the current study were between 11-15 years
(54%) and 16-20 years (44.6%). Although there were few adult students enrolled in the schools.
57.6% of the students interviewed were female and 42.4% were male. 72.5% of students
interviewed came from families whose main source of income was agriculture.
The most commonly reported immediate reaction to the earthquake was shock in 42.9% and
fear in 32.9%. 12.4% reported to have cried, 4.3% screamed and 7.6% started running after the
quake. 93.7% of the children reported that they discussed their feelings about the earthquake
with someone. 38.5% of children discussed it with parents, 41.6% with friends and neighbours,
12.5% with teachers and 7.4% with siblings. In a study by Yilmaz et al, a high proportion of
school students have discussed disaster-related issues with their friends. Furthermore,in their
study, about 75% of students reported to have discussed disaster-related issues at home with
their parents. In the current study only 38.5% of students discussed their feelings regarding the
disaster with their parents.
80.9% of students reported to have fears about another earthquake. 73% suffered from loss
of appetite after the earthquake, 78.3% reported loss of sleep. 37.9% said they could not
concentrate on studies after the quake. 48.7% of students felt they were constantly under strain
after the earthquake. 57.4% said they could not enjoy their day to day life after the quake. 64.8%
of students reported feeling unhappy and depressed after the disaster. 48.1% said they could not
feel happy. 76.9% thought that the disaster would badly affect their future. 82.6% felt their life
was coming back to normal in the 22 months following the earthquake. These figures show a
high frequency of psychological symptoms suggestive of PTSD among the students. However
a definite diagnosis of PTSD would require more thorough psychiatric evaluation for the
presence or absence of diagnostic criteria (given below), which is beyond the scope of this
study. There has been no published study on PTSD in Nepali children after the earthquake. The
findings in the current study also indicate the need for training teachers, parents, non-teaching
staff and community members in giving emotional and psychological support to the children.
Correlation of Stress Symptoms with Age in Students: There was no significant
correlation of age of students and fear of another quake (p value 0.07). There was no significant
correlation between loss of appetite and age of students. (p value 0.15) or loss of sleep and age
of students (p value 0.89).Feeling of constant strain had significant correlation with age. 52.2%
of students in the 16-20 age group reported constant strain as opposed to 45.7% in the 11-15
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age group. (p value 0.03). There was significant correlation between inability to concentrate
and age of the student. Inability to concentrate was significantly higher in 16-20 age group
when compared to 11-15 age group. (p value0.001) The age groups at the extremes had very
little students. There was significant correlation between enjoying day-to-day activities and age
of the student.(p value 0.01) Inability to enjoy day-to-day activities was significant in the 1620 age group. There was no significant correlation between age of the student and self- reported
feeling of depression or unhappiness (p value 0.94). There is no significant difference in the
number of respondents feeling reasonably happy between the different age groups. (p value
0.44)
Correlation of Gender of Student with Symptoms of Post- Traumatic Stress:Fear of
another earthquake was significantly different between the gender (p value 0.001) See table 2.
There was significant difference in the loss of appetite experienced after the quake, i.e.,
significantly higher in female students (p value 0.005) See table 1.Loss of sleep was
significantly higher in female students (p value 0.001). See table 1. There was significant
correlation between gender and feeling of constant strain which was significantly higher among
females. (p value =0.005). See table 2.
Table 2: Correlation of stress symptoms with gender
Fear of another
earthquake
No
Yes
Total
Loss of appetite
No
Yes
Total
Loss of sleep
No
Yes
Constant strain
No
Yes
Male
Female
114
310
424
Male
134
290
424
Male
118
306
424
Male
239
184
76
497
573
Female
135
438
573
Female
98
475
573
Female
273
302
190
807
997
269
728
997
216
781
997
512
486
There was no correlation between ability to concentrate and gender of the students. (p
value0.42). There was no significant correlation between ability to enjoy day-to-day activities
(p value0.48), feeling unhappy or depressed (p value 0.94) and feeling reasonably happy (p
value0.36) and gender of thestudent.
Correlation of Family Income with Symptoms of Stress in Students:There was no
significant difference between the different income groups and the fear of another earthquake.
There was no significant correlation between family income and loss of appetite (p value 0.73),
loss of sleep (p value .61), feeling of constant strain (p value0.40), ability to enjoy normal dayto-day activities(p value0.13), unhappiness/ depressed feeling (pvalue=0.22) and feeling happy
( p value0.11)
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Correlation of Symptoms of Stress with Loss of Family Members/ Friends/ Neighbors
There was a significant difference in the self-reported ability to concentrate on studies
between those who had experienced loss of family member/ friend / neighbor and those who
had not. See table 3. There was significant correlation between feeling of constant strain and
loss of family member/ friend/ neighbor. (p value 0.04 ). See table 2. There was a significant
correlation between feeling unhappy or depressed and loss of family members or friends or
neighbors (p value 0.002). See table 3.
There was no significant correlation between either fear about another earthquake(p
value0.12), loss of appetite (p value 0.18) or loss of sleep(0.11)or ability to enjoy daily activities
(p value0.66) with loss of family /neighbors/friends.
Table 3: Correlation of loss of family member/ friend or neighbor with ability to concentrate, feeling
of constant strain and feeling unhappy or depressed
Ability to concentrate
Not able to concentrate
Able to concentrate
Total
Feeling of constant
strain
No strain
Feeling of constant
strain
Total
No loss
228
463
691
Loss of family /friend
141
147
288
Total
369
610
979
No loss
Loss of family / friend
Total
373
133
506
326
155
481
699
987
Feeling unhappy
No loss
Not feeling unhappy
Feeling unhappy
Total
263
427
690
288
Loss of family
member/friends
79
207
286
342
634
976
Correlation of Symptoms of Stress in Students with Damage to One’s Own House
There was significant correlation between feeling of constant strain with loss or damage to
one’s own house (p value0.035). There was no significant correlation between loss or damage
to one’s own house versus fear of another earthquake (p value 0.15), loss of appetite(p
value=0.24), loss of sleep(p value0.08), ability to concentrate(p value0.25), ability to enjoy
normal day-to-day activities(p value0.52), feeling unhappy(p value0.14) and feeling reasonably
happy(p value0.19).
Correlation of symptoms of stress in students with injuryduring the earthquake There
was significant correlation between injury sustained during the earthquake and fear of another
quake (p value<0.001) See table 3.There was significant correlation between ability to
concentrate and injury sustained during the earthquake.(p value0.001). See table 4. There was
significant correlation between feeling unhappy or depressed and injury sustained during the
quake (p value 0.009). See table 4.
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Psychological Impact of Massive Natural Disaster on School Students – A Significant but Unseen
Aspect of School Management in Post Disaster Scenario – A Study from Rural Nepal
Table 4: Correlation of stress symptoms with injury sustained during the earthquake.
Fear of another
earthquake
No fear
Fear of another
earthquake
Total
Ability to concentrate
Not able
Able
Total
Feeling unhappy
Not unhappy
Feeling unhappy
Total
No injury
Injury sustained
Total
144
44
188
504
296
800
648
No injury
214
428
642
No injury
245
394
639
340
Injury sustained
157
181
338
Injury sustained
101
237
338
988
371
609
980
346
631
977
There was no significant correlation between injury sustained and loss of appetite (p value
0.07),loss of sleep (p value 0.21), enjoying daily activities(p value 0.08) and feeling reasonably
happy (p value 0.59)
Correlation between symptoms of stress in students to loss of domestic Animals or
petsThere was significant correlation between inability to concentrate and loss of pets or
domestic animals in the quake. (p value0.001). There was significant correlation between
feeling of constant strain and loss of pets and domestic animals during the quake. (p value
0.001). There was significant correlation between ability to enjoy daily activities and loss of
domestic animals or pets (P value 0.007). There was significant correlation between feeling
unhappy or depressed and loss of pets or domestic animals during the earthquake (p value
0.001). There was no correlation between loss of pets or domestic animals and fear of another
earthquake (p value 0.08), loss of appetite(p value0.165) and loss of sleep (p value0.49).
Although there was significant difference in the ability to concentrate in studies between
the groups with different family incomes (p value 0.02), there was no linear correlation of the
ability to concentrate with the amount of family income. 40% of students from families with
annual income of less than one lakh had difficulty concentrating in their studies compared to
27% in 1-3 lakhs, 36% in 3-5 lakhs and 28.6% in > 5 lakhs categories. 81.4% of all children
interviewed reported an average family income of less than a lakh.
In a study of post-earthquake behaviour by Ak (2014)from Marmara, Turkey, 12.2% of the
students were injured and 11.3% lost a relative or family member. The students were between
6-12 years of age and their major concerns were about harm to family, collapse of building, and
death in that order.Ak (2014) concluded that symptoms of PTSD commonly seen in girls
include nightmares about disaster, fear of sudden noises, fear of staying indoors, reluctance to
go to school and sleep difficulties. Boys showed PTSD symptoms like difficulty in
communicating with others and difficulty in understanding lessons. 61% of children were
frightened when they remembered the earthquake and 36% thought of death when they
remembered the disaster. Ak (2014)found that a majority of children were hopeful of a better
future with their family and friends. He found that 268 of 400 reported having fear of another
earthquake and 298 of 400 had sleep disturbances. In the current study from Nepal, 78.3% of
students interviewed reported that they experienced loss of sleep in the days after the earthquake
and 80.9% of students reported that they experienced fear about another earthquake in the
future.
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In a separate study from Nepal on the psychological impacts of the 2015 earthquake in
adults, anxiety and depression were more common in illiterate people, people who had suffered
loss of house or property and those who had had an initial fear of earthquake. (Sharma D, 2017).
Women had a slightly higher risk of PTSD than men in their study but the difference was not
statistically significant. Their study included subjects from 15- 30 years age and did not
specifically study children. In a study from New Zealand, the major concern of the respondents
aged 9-10 years after the earthquake was about loss of family and fear of being trapped. (King,
2013). Most children expressed fear about earthquakes, but recorded feeling more positive after
having learned safe behaviours and coping strategies for earthquakes and having the knowledge
that their families are prepared for an earthquake. Ronan et al (2003) stated that fear in parents
leads to increasing fear reported by children. King (2012) and Mooney et al (2017) also found
that children tried to engage in activities and happy thoughts to distract themselves from worry
and fear of an earthquake.
Conclusions:The study aimed to record the psychological impact of the 2015 earthquakes
on school students in the four worst affected districts of rural Nepal. 29.1% of students
interviewed lost a family member of friend during the 2015 earthquake, 34.3% of students were
injured, 96% experienced damage to their own houses and 31.8% lost their pets or domestic
animals.The most commonly reported immediate reaction to earthquake among students is
shock(42.9%) and next common was fear (32.8%). An overwhelming majority of students
reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress during the post-earthquake period. This included
fear of another earthquake in 80.9%, loss of appetite in 73%, loss of sleep in 78.3%, inability
to concentrate in 37.9% of and feeling of constant strain in 48.7%. Significant associations were
found between frequency of certain stress symptoms and age, gender, loss of family members,
loss of pets and injury acquired during the earthquakes.It is the first study of its kind from rural
Nepal and the numbers of students interviewed adds to the robustness of the study.
6. LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The findings are all reported by students themselves and from their memory of the disaster. A
clinical psychological assessment of huge numbers of students are beyond the scope of the
study
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