The #BeFree ambassador at Jan Möhr Secondary School, Moses Filippus (14) has questioned whether education is more important than the health of young people in the country amidst divided inputs on students returning to schools for face-to-face sessions.
“Covid-19 has put pressure on students to finish their schoolwork within a short period, thus affecting their mental health. The health of students is more important than education,” he powerfully articulated. He said this during a panel discussion held at the communication centre in the capital, focusing on the effect of Covid-19 on students and young people in the informal settlements across Namibia.
The ninth grader said the country is experiencing a power vacuum during the pandemic, everything is compromised but health comes first.
“Although not everyone manages with online learning, that will never stop students from achieving their goals,” admitted Filippus.
No doubt, Covid-19 has deepened disparity in Namibia, and now living realities in the informal settlements are becoming prevalent. Nust student and youth advocate, Beatha Iileka highlighted that actions depend on what people do. “My life depends on what I do. In terms of mental health, young people need to offer each other safe spaces where they can have non-judgmental conversations,” she mentioned.
Iileka said the in-equalities experienced in informal sectors affect the education of young people and more needs to be done to address their mental health. “Young people have the power to change the world and we need to work together to beat Covid-19,” she stated. The technical director in the office of the first lady, Bernadus Steven Harageib said the #BeFree Movement has been a significant game-changer in creating safe spaces for open and honest youth dialogue.
“#BeFree is focused on remaining a non-judgmental platform which facilitates intergenerational engagement, sharing of information and linking young people to critical services, influencing behavioural change and encouraging help-seeking behaviour,” he highlighted.
He said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on all parts of society, changing lives and livelihoods in our communities as it is with the rest of the world. The reality of young people during this time has been compromised even more as the pandemic is affecting young people in various ways, including their health, education and socio-economic status.”
Covid-19 has disrupted the school routine, health services and social engagements. Young people are affected by closures of schools and non-formal education opportunities that deprive them of social engagement with their peers and educators and for those that depended on the school-feeding programme are faced with hunger even more.
Harageib pointed out that young people should be given the platform to address and express their experiences and the impact that Covid-19 has on their lives.
“It is important that all efforts to mitigate and address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic include provisions that are responsive to young people’s needs and include young people in all meaningful aspects and phases of combating Covid-19, hence the importance of hosting the #BeFreeCovid-19 with young people,” he mentioned.