Calls for therapy for learners intensify
As schools resume today, calls for grief therapy for learners have intensified. Namibia lost 2,227 people to Covid-19 in a deadly third wave of infections in June and July.
The Namibia Students’ Union (SUN) has promoted grief therapy for learners and students to cope with the psychological effects of the pandemic.
Schools that have been on extended winter vacations are expected to open today for face-to-face teaching and learning.
Many Namibians have been and continue to be affected by Covid-19. Nearly 120,000 have tested positive for the coronavirus and 3,080 have died to date, according to official statistics from the Ministry of Health.
This situation has left negative psychological effects on families who have lost loved ones, especially children orphaned due to the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that “fear, worry and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats – and sometimes when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. It is therefore normal and understandable that people feel fear in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic ”.
“In addition to the fear of contracting the virus during a pandemic such as Covid-19, there are significant changes in our daily lives, as our movements are restricted to support efforts to contain and slow the spread of the virus. Faced with the new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home schooling of children and the lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues, it is important that we take care of our mental health and physical.
SUN Secretary General Benhard Kavau said Covid-19 has caused trauma to students and learners because they have lost loved ones, lecturers, family and friends. Therefore, SUN believes there is a need for grief therapy, which can be done by expanding counseling services.
The Minister of Education, Anna Nghipondoka, assured that the ministry trains teachers who will take care of the psychosocial support of the learners.
“Having noticed that we have lost many teachers, we know that by the time we return to schools it will be problematic for learners to find out that they have lost their teachers and principals. This is why the issue of psychosocial support is taken seriously and should not be taken for granted, ”said Nghipondoka.
Namibia Teachers Union (TUN) General Secretary Mahongora Kavihuha agreed that there is a need for psychosocial support among learners.
However, he warned that in doing so, the education ministry should ensure that no pressure is put on teachers, as they are also traumatized.
He called, however, for the swift implementation of such support in schools to help those in need.
Jerry Motinga, Unam’s Student Representative Advisor (SRC) for Gender and Community Development, said fear of contracting Covid-19 also affects student mental health.
International University of Management (IUM) RSC President Dingi Hendrik said the Covid-19 lockdowns resulted in people being isolated from each other, leading to problems being solved on their own – and hence, mental stress.
Anna Petrus, a learner from the Khomas region, said students fear that when they go to school their teachers will be isolated, which could undermine quality education.
There are also fears that schools will be closed, forcing learners to repeat a year.
Patrick Shimangwe, SRC resident at Triumphant College, said Covid-19 has caused financial strain, adding that some student funders have lost their jobs or their lives, making it difficult for students to enroll and to pay for housing.
Therefore, student leaders are committed to promoting and advocating for mental health awareness and increased support for individual counseling services.
However, the director of education in Ohangwena, Isak Hamatwi, advised teachers to offer psychosocial support to learners who have lost their parents and guardians during the holidays.
Hamatwi further advised teachers to observe the behavior of learners so that those affected by Covid-19 do not suppress their emotions but instead get professional help.
Hamatwi said it is a known fact that learners and teachers have lost loved ones to Covid-19; therefore, learners and teachers should be professionally assisted in dealing with the loss.
The principal also recommends teachers who have been affected by the pandemic to seek support.
He called on parents not to send lone learners or those who have tested positive for Covid-19 to school until they are cleared.
The principal warned schools to follow health protocols and said disinfecting and socially distancing was essential to curb the spread of the virus.