FAST Program in Mazandaran After Tehran

FAST Program in Mazandaran After TehranFAST Program in Mazandaran After Tehran

The Families and Schools Together (FAST) Program, initiated by the United Nations Office for Drug Control, was launched in a school and a kindergarten in Iran’s northern Mazandaran Province.

The Shahid Ebrahim Nobar Primary School and Nastaran Kindergarten in Sari, the provincial capital, are executing the program in cooperation with UNODC, the Education Ministry and Iran Drug Control Headquarters (IDCH).

“Eight trained teachers are assigned to execute the program in the two educational facilities,” said Shaqayeq Malekzadeh, head of the provincial office for drug prevention and control, IRNA reported.

The FAST Program encourages parents to spend quality time with their children and pay necessary attention to them. It was developed in 1988 by Dr. Lynn McDonald, professor of social work research at Middlesex University in London, as an evidence-based, multi-family group prevention program. The program seeks to build protective factors to enhance children’s resilience against risk factors with parents playing the primary prevention role in their children’s lives.

The eight-week program (three hours per day) is offered through schools to children and the family to participate on a voluntary basis, and includes structured activities designed to support bonding and communication between parents and their children and foster positive parenting approaches.

“It is intended as a harm reduction program,” says Malekzadeh.

With mutually supportive relationships between families and school, children are less likely to experience academic failure, drug and alcohol abuse, youth delinquency, anti-social behavior, child abuse and neglect, and mental health problems.

 Pilot in 10 Tehran Schools

The program was first piloted in 10 schools in Tehran with its launching in January 2014 at Shaghayegh Cultural Complex, in cooperation with the IDCH, Education Ministry, State Welfare Organization, UNODC Office, and the participation of 32 parents, social counselors, teachers and principals from two pre-schools.

Research supports the effectiveness of prevention programs that involve parents/families, school, and the community. Although the physical presence of a parent at home at key times reduces risk (especially as regards substance use), of more significance for children is the parental connectedness and attention. The home environment also helps shape health outcomes. Homes where children have easy access to illicit substances contribute to increased risk of suicide, involvement in interpersonal violence, and substance use by children.

Due to the declining age of drug abuse in Iran and the serious harm inflicted by substance use, addressing the issue early is of great importance, Malekzadeh said.

The program is known for retention rates of 80% if a parent participates even once, and has an established track record for engaging socially marginalized parents. In 2010, FAST was identified by the UNODC as one of the top 11 evidence-based family skills programs in the world to be used in schools for promoting child wellbeing.

Mazandaran Province has more than 500,000 students in nearly 4,000 schools.