eBASE, effective basic services:Behaviour Interventions Local Summary

Behaviour Interventions Local Summary

Summary of the research evidence on the impact of Behaviour interventions on the educational attainment of pupils in sub-Saharan Africa.


The text below is a summary of the research evidence on the impact of Behaviour interventions on the educational attainment of pupils in sub-Saharan Africa. It is an analysis of individual studies of Behaviour interventions on educational attainment in sub-Saharan Africa. The information here is valuable for African school leaders, administrators and policy makers. It is even more valuable for parents who may be thinking of better ways to improve on the educational attainment of their children.

Effective Basic Services (eBASE) Africa developed this summary using available research evidence while also taking into consideration prominent themes arising from key informant interviews (KII) and focus group discussions (FGD), particularly FGD with teachers and students. This implies the presence and participation of all key stakeholders; the policy makers, the implementers or enforcers of policy and the beneficiaries. The research evidence in this summary is acquired from a detailed and replicable search protocol used on a wide range – listed below – of research databases for related studies in low- and middle-income countries in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.

Definition of strand

Behaviour interventions are designed to improve pupil behaviour and reduce the chances of young people acting anti-socially. Behaviour interventions often come in one of the following forms: universal approaches designed to improve the behaviour of all within a classroom; targeted programmes designed to help certain pupils overcome specific problems with their behaviour or learning; and whole school interventions purposed with promoting a positive shared culture that may also support pupils to learn more effectively by embodying effective behaviours (Higgins et al, 2016).

Why is this strand important?

An ordered and appropriate environment for learning is essential for students to attain their full potential. Challenging or disrupting behaviour may have an adverse effect on students’ learning outcomes as it reduces their ability to concentrate and take in information. It can also increase teacher stress. Poor behaviour has been associated with increased dropout and poor attainment (Freeman et al., 2015).

With the persistence of challenging behaviours in schools in Cameroon and sub-Saharan Africa (le Roux & Mokhele, 2011; Ngoran, 2016), exploring behaviour interventions in schools, classroom or targeting specific students is imperative.

Summary of research in Sub-Saharan Africa

In sub-Saharan Africa, behaviour interventions and their impact on educational outcomes have not been extensively researched, although there is some limited evidence from the West and South of Africa.

An exploratory trial with treatment and wait-list control groups assessed the effect of group-based problem-solving interventions on aggressive behaviours among primary school pupils in Ibadan Nigeria. The intervention encompassed problem-solving skills, calming techniques, and attribution retraining that builds students’ capacity for distinguishing wilful or accidental intents and perceive ambiguity in interpersonal relations. Conclusions showed significant reduction for the teacher rated aggressive behaviours (TRAB) and the self-rated aggression scale (SRAS) with large effect sizes of 1.2 and 0.9, respectively. However, this study did not assess impact on educational outcomes and had significant limitations like a small sample size and non-randomization of participants (Abdulmalik et al., 2016).

A case study research project conducted in Ghana examined the possible causes of child delinquency and questioned how this affected education outcomes. The study suggested child delinquency may come as the result of financial problems, bad friends, and poor academic performance, but it also mentioned pupils can derive fun from such behaviour. Delinquent behaviour was associated with poor academic performance, whereas punishment, guidance and counselling, and proper monitoring of pupils appeared as potential remedies (Gyansah et al., 2015). Similarly, a study conducted in Nigeria found a significant relationship between students’ study habits and their academic performance (Ebele & Olofu, 2017). Meanwhile Kiweewa et al (Kiweewa et al., 2018) argued that it is important to incorporate guidance and counselling into school curriculums in SSA. Mainly because efforts aimed at expanding this service remain diffused and under-resourced.

A randomized control trial conducted in Zambia (Kaljee et al., 2017) tested the impact of a teacher education programme that sought to build teachers’ knowledge and skills to enhance their school environments, foster psychosocial support, and facilitate school-community relationships was associated with positive outcomes related to future orientation, respect, support, safety, sexual abuse, and bullying. However, limitations such as attrition or small sample size (four districts in two provinces) means caution must be taken not to generalise these findings. This trial provides evidence that behaviour interventions targeting teachers can make a difference for both teachers and the students in the classroom or the school.


There is a paucity in research assessing the impact of behaviours intervention on students’ educational outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa. Case-study research has suggested poor behaviour is associated with financial problems, bad friends, and poor academic performance, and may also be enacted for pupil fun. A behaviour intervention in the form of a group-based problem-solving programme showed a positive impact in reducing challenging behaviours among primary school pupils in Nigeria, although this study was limited by its sample size and attrition. More comprehensive programs seeking to include guidance and counselling into school curriculum or empowering teachers with knowledge and skills to enhance their school environments, foster psychosocial support, and facilitate school-community relationships, showed positive results for reducing challenging behaviour. Overall, there has been limited research to evaluate the effectiveness of the different behaviour interventions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Comprehensive guidance and counselling are gaining recognition as an alternative behaviour management technique in sub-Saharan Africa, but an effective implementation model remains a major challenge.

Impact, Security, and Cost of Local Evidence

The local evidence suggests positive effects of behaviour interventions on outcomes such as future orientation, respect, support, safety, and sexual abuse in SSA. The evidence is however, very limited, as we could not find any experimental studies with outcomes of interest including academic performance, achievement, enrolment, or attainment. More robust studies, in the form of randomised control trials are therefore required.

Cost of implementing behaviour management interventions in SSA is likely to be moderate.

Search terms

(((Social skills interventions) OR (behaviour intervention) OR (guidance counsel) OR (behaviour management)) AND ((sub-Saharan Africa) OR SSA OR (Middle Africa)) AND (pupils OR learner) AND ((educational attainment) OR (school enrolment) OR (school attendance)))

Databases searched

Google scholar
EBSCO (ebooks, ERICS, Education Administration Abstract, Education Abstract)
Campbell Collaboration
Global Partnership for Education
African evaluation journal


Abdulmalik, J., Ani, C., Ajuwon, A. J., & Omigbodun, O. (2016). Effects of problem-solving interventions on aggressive behaviours among primary school pupils in Ibadan, Nigeria. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034…

Ebele, U. F., & Olofu, P. A. (2017). Study habit and its impact on secondary school students academic performance in biology in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Educational Research and Reviews, 12(10), 583 – 588. https://doi.org/10.5897/err201…

Freeman, J., Simonsen, B., Mccoach, D. B., & Sugai, G. M. (2015). An Analysis of the Relationship Between Implementation of School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Support and High School Dropout Rates National PBIS TA Center View project From Vocational Education to Career Readiness: The Ongoing Work of Linking Education and the Labor Market View project. Article in The High School Journal. https://doi.org/10.1353/hsj.20…

Gyansah, S. T., Soku, R., & Esilfie, G. (2015). Journal of Education and Practice www.iiste.org ISSN (Vol. 6, Issue 12). Online. www.iiste.org

Kaljee, L., Zhang, L., Langhaug, L., Munjile, K., Tembo, S., Menon, A., Stanton, B., Li, X., & Malungo, J. (2017). A randomized-control trial for the teachers’ diploma programme on psychosocial care, support and protection in Zambian government primary schools. Psychology, Health and Medicine, 22(4), 381 – 392. https://doi.org/10.1080/135485…

Kiweewa, J. M., Knettel, B. A., & Luke, M. M. (2018). Incorporating Comprehensive Counselling and Guidance Models into School Curricula in Sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 40(2), 133 – 147. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447…

le Roux, C. S., & Mokhele, P. R. (2011). The persistence of violence in South Africa’s schools: In search of solutions. Africa Education Review, 8(2), 318 – 335. https://doi.org/10.1080/181466…

Ngoran, G. (2016). Violence in Secondary Schools of the North West Region of Cameroon. Sociology and Anthropology, 4(12), 1044 – 1047. https://doi.org/10.13189/sa.20…