Department To Provide Mental Health Support At Schools

Child sitting with his head hung

The Department of Basic Education will be focusing on providing psychological support to all school staff and learners as they face the traumatizing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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Many learners and teachers have experienced a loss of family members within the 2020 academic year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa. 

The Department of Basic Education now seeks to provide mental health support in the form of psychological services to help schools deal with the loss that they have experienced. 

In a media briefing on school readiness on 14 February the department's Director General Mathanzima Mweli said that learners needed psychosocial assistance to help them cope with the effects of Covid-19 in 2020. He described this year as "extraordinary" for many South Africans. 

Teachers and learners will have lost family members and friends as well as other teachers which would have a negative impact on their mental health. 

According to the Department of Basic Education's Minister Angie Motshekga, a total of 1 169 educators had passed away due to the Covid-19 related complications from December 2020 to February 2021. From 12 February the number stands at 159 educators. 

The number of non-teaching staff who have passed away during the period of December and January is 69. 

“The demand [for psychosocial services] has been huge for teachers and the demand is going to be even higher for learners as learners return, having been traumatised by the fact that they would have lost a loved one, would have also been infected and so on, and would have lost a teacher," said Mweli. 

He says that the department is working with NGOs, online platforms and faith-based organisations to provide the necessary support services. 

Mweli also said that many learners, including those attending special schools, do not have access to therapy. 

He said that the support system would be provided to help empower these learners with skills which will allow them to cope with the stress, anxiety and trauma caused by the pandemic. 

"We are meeting regularly with the Association of School Governing Bodies, professional bodies, which includes professional bodies that represent schools for learners with special education needs, psychosocial services ... It’s a major area for us."-Department of basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli

Mweli believes that when these learners do not receive help it slows their development and hinders their well-being. 

The department is currently filling psychologist and social worker vacancies at district level. 

These support services will also be extended to teachers as they have lost many colleagues as well as loved ones. 

It will be offered through the employee wellness programme, which will see them receiving remote and face-to-face support. 

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