MEC urges people to make use of mental health interventions for Matriculants
As October is National Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to make a special appeal to all Western Cape residents to support and be mindful of our matric Class of 2021 as we count down toward the start of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams.
This class has had a particularly tough year and a half. As Grade 11s last year, they missed a substantial amount of in-person teaching and learning time, so there was a lot to catch up on. We have prioritised them this year to ensure that they had the maximum possible time in class, which included cancelling the mid-year examinations to give them more teaching and learning time. I salute the work that all of our matric teachers have done to prepare this class to the very best of their abilities.
We recognise that this will be a stressful and anxious period for our Grade 12s, and that they may be struggling to cope emotionally with the pressure. I urge each and every one of them to reach out for help if they need it.
Each district has a Specialised Learner and Educator Support (SLES) team, which includes psychologists and social workers. When a learner approaches a teacher for help, or a teacher notices that a learner is not doing so well, they can refer them to their District office for individual support. The district can also make referrals to other departments for additional support where needed.
We appeal especially to communities to report cases where learners are manifesting symptoms of depression and may even be at-risk of a possible self-harm attempt. Schools, parents, and/or learners can call the WCED’s Safe Schools call centre (0800 45 46 47) for assistance in locating immediate support.
In addition, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) offers a 24-hour helpline (0800 12 13 14) as well as a Suicide Emergency Number (0800 567 567). Learners and/or parents can use these numbers if they feel that the child needs immediate assistance (often after school hours).
Our SLES teams in our districts have been proactively engaging with Grade 12 learners as they prepare for exams. This has included:
- Motivational talks
- Study skills sessions
- Self-care and mindfulness sessions with groups of matric learners
- Psycho-social support sessions with parents focusing on communication, realistic expectations and goal-setting, and supporting a Grade 12 learner at home
- Group support sessions
Various partner organisations have been assisting in these efforts – from universities to NGOs. Attention has also been paid to the wellbeing of matric teachers, so that they can better support their learners.
The WCED’s Directorate: Inclusive and Specialised Education Support has placed useful resources regarding psycho-social support and promotion of well-being on the WCED’s ePortal. In addition, districts have also distributed relevant pamphlets and other resources to schools.
As we count down the final days to the start of the exams, we must all do everything we can to create the right environment in which our learners can do their very best. This is the culmination of their school career, and they deserve our special attention and support.