Generating and Preventing Violence: Schools’ Responses to School Violence Against Students with Disabilities in Zambia
Janet Njelesani

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



New York University

Primary Discipline

Special Education
Violence at school exists in every country of the world, spanning across cultures, classes, education levels, and abilities, including in Zambia, the country that is the focus of this study. While violence can and does occur against all children of all demographics, those with disabilities are at a significantly greater risk than their non-disabled peers. Schools are obligated to protect children from all forms of violence, and educators’ responses are key to reducing this phenomenon. However, a teacher’s failure to act or to provide consistent responses may cause more problems for students. This study explores the role that educators’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors play in responding to school violence against students with disabilities in Zambia. In this qualitative study, drawing from social-ecological and critical theories, multiple factors, such as the ability-level and gender of the child, school policies, and the prevalent stigma surrounding disability are examined to understand how they interact to shape educators’ attitudes and responses to violence. Collaborating with local partners, including the Ministry of Education in Zambia, data generation includes an analysis of school documents and semi-structured interviews with teachers, school leadership, and students with disabilities in Lusaka, Zambia. Findings will provide direction for school violence prevention and intervention efforts, with the greater goal of enhancing the effectiveness of educator support and school protection policies.
About Janet Njelesani
Janet Njelesani is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She is an occupational therapist with a PhD in Rehabilitation Science and Global Health from the University of Toronto. Janet has a rich and active program of research that illuminates issues of inclusion and equity for children with disabilities. She draws from critical social science theories to examine macro-level phenomena and incorporates several disciplinary and methodological approaches in her work to generate knowledge, drawing what is best from the fields of inclusive education, child protection, rehabilitation, and disability. Her research foregrounds the experiences of students with disabilities living in low- and middle-income countries, a population that has traditionally been neglected in research, and seeks to reach diverse audiences to inform research, policy, and programming. Her current program of research investigates how social, cultural, and institutional practices influence inclusion, protection, and education for children with disabilities living in Zambia. To her research, Janet brings a breadth of expertise and experiences, having worked as a clinician for over 15 years and through her role providing disability and rehabilitation technical advice to Governments, United Nations agencies, and international non-governmental organizations.

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