As the country continues to struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic, many learners all over the country had to deal with months of learning from home or no learning at all. Now that they have returned to face-to-face learning, thoughts have turned to not only catching up to the school curriculum, but also the long-term impact the pandemic could have on their mental health.
It is, for this reason, the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) of the International University of Management (IUM), in collaboration with the Students Union of Namibia (SUN) and various SRCs from other institutions of higher learning, started a mental health programme for all learners in the country.
The initiative titled ‘Giving back to the community’ is aimed to offer mental health support to learners whose lives have been drastically altered because of Covid-19.
“As the students’ representative of IUM, we decided to lend a helping hand to the community as we continue to fight the virus together. Our main focus is on local schools, as it so happens that many learners have lost their teachers and parents during the pandemic. One could imagine the trauma, stress, fear, and frustration,” said IUM SRC president Dingi Hendrik.
The initiative was recently launched at the Windhoek-based A. I. Steenkamp Primary School – one of many schools facing challenges of mental health conditions among learners.
Apart from having a psychological session with learners, the student leaders also donated sanitary items and stationery to 20 learners who were identified as needy at the school.
“A. I. Steenkamp Primary School is not the only school with learners in need or facing mental challenges; many local schools are experiencing the same difficulties. We believe that reaching out to one school will unveil much,” said Hendrik.
Principal of A. I. Steenkamp Primary School, Rudolfine Kamahene said mental health conditions among children have become a great concern.“Some of our learners have lost their parents while some have lost many households, and we appreciate the fact that young people from IUM are giving our learners emotional and mental support at the time when they need it the most. I believe this will be a stepping stone to urge other student leaders, the educators, and parents not to lose hope,” she said.
Kamahene added that at times, they are not aware of the emotional state of learners until they show their anxieties through fighting or isolating themselves.
“Behavioural change is one of the symptoms of mental illness we need to look out for among children. As teachers and parents, we need to build a social connection with these children for them to be open and feel safe to share their conditions,” she said, adding that communication is the key to that challenge.
Kamahene, therefore, urged teachers and parents to always look out for signs of mental conditions among learners to enable them to get mental support.
Speaking to Youth Corner, SUN president Bernhard Kavau said giving back to the community is a national programme and they are looking forward to rolling it out to all schools in the country.
“We will also be offering our services to orphanages and at the moment, we are also looking for donors who can support our initiative. The more resources we have, the more learners and schools we will be able to reach out to,” added Kavau.
Meanwhile, in efforts to help curb mental challenges among teachers and learners, the education ministry on Monday also embarked upon a programme to train life skills teachers on mental health and psychosocial support. - firstname.lastname@example.org