• July 10th, 2020

Letter - Prioritising mental health for learners amid and post-Covid-19

Learners, teachers, parents and the government cannot wait for education to return to its traditional classroom setting. The Covid-19 pandemic appears to be under control in Namibia and some education stakeholders have agreed that schools should commence on 3 June 2020, for pupils in critical grades, especially in grade 11 and 12. However, this should be conducted in a strategic manner, taking all impacts of Covid-19 into consideration, to ensure that when school starts, teaching and learning is carried out effectively. We should first and foremost address the psychological impact Covid-19 had on learners and all relevant parties that contribute directly and indirectly to the education of learners. The hygienic conditions of schools should also be approved. Learners should be mentally well for school to commence. We have to take into consideration the mental impact that came with the coronavirus. Covid-19 brought along a lot of uncertainty about the academic careers of many learners when it first introduced itself as a pandemic to the Namibian nation. Various measures were put in place to curb the spread of the virus.

A drastic but effective ‘lockdown period’ put the mental state of many learners to test. After the lockdown period, we were introduced to the stage two period of the state of emergency. During this stage, there is a little more freedom of movement and many parents could now attend work. However, during this same stage, we began seeing an increase in the number of jobs being lost, sources of income becoming scares and news reports of companies retrenching workers, with the highlight being the retrenchment of 177 workers from Safari hotel. To link this with the role it plays in the education sector, we have to assess and realize that among these 177 workers, and all other workers that lost their jobs and sources of income, are parents that have learners at home. Any learner sees and hears of the reality of his/her parent being unemployed and that a source of income is gone and this also plays with a learner’s mental state. All these factors play a crucial role in the psychological well being of learners.

A number of schools also do not have proper hygiene and sanitation facilities. The measure of social distancing, to maintain hygiene, also seems unrealistic at schools. Take my school for instance, Jan Möhr, that plays hosts to over 1 200 learners overall and about 50 learners overcrowding a classroom. Will social distancing really be applicable? We should not relax amid the pandemic and remember the virus is still out there. Mental health is just as vital as physical health. To address the mental wellbeing of learners, the Ministry of Education has to ensure that Life Skills teachers are more than ever available at schools nationwide. They offer a safe haven for learners to seek advice and help. The government should also avail a three-day period, if schools commence on the 3 June, for teachers to keep a close eye on learners and assess their mental wellbeing. I further encourage the government and especially the private sector, in its humanity of capitalism, to introduce the school-feeding programme to all schools nationwide. This will show that the government is aware of the jobs and sources of income that were lost during this pandemic and to show it fully supports the wellbeing of learners at school.

To address the issue of sanitation and hygiene both the government and private sector have to ensure schools are conducive by ensuring that clean running water is available and by fixing taps and toilets. The ministry of education can also divide the day for learners to attend school. The grade 11s and 12s can attend school during the morning and the other grades can attend schools in the afternoon, this will definitely make social distance more realistic. This measure was once in place when classrooms where not enough for learners at Moses //Garoëb Primary School. Conclusively, this is a call to the government, private sector and all relevant stakeholders to ensure that schools and learned are ready to commence with the education process. The government should also always give learners a sit at the table by consulting its student body, Namibian National Students Organisation (Nanso). Decisions should be taken for learners with learners.

Staff Reporter
2020-05-29 10:03:31 | 1 months ago

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