Sunday World

Teachers at front line of Covid battle

Sacap offers mental health toolkit

- By Somaya Stockenstr­oom

Teachers are at the front line of their communitie­s’ responses to the Covid-19 crisis, according to the South African College of Applied Psychology (Sacap).

With the pandemic in its second year, Sacap said trying to teach effectivel­y in ongoing circumstan­ces that are the opposite of what is conducive to learning, is a constant, heart-wrenching battle for most teachers.

Yesterday, it invited teachers to a 90-minute Sacap Mental Health Toolkit for Teachers webinar with experts and registered counsellin­g psychologi­st and Sacap educator Clare Chester; educationa­l psychologi­st Dr Anne Govender; and educationa­l and research psychologi­st and Sacap’s head of teaching and learning Dr Diana De Sousa, highlighti­ng unique challenges they face and presented solutions to help them improve both their learners’ and their own emotional wellbeing.

Govender said while the school community is expected to function normally in an abnormal situation, teachers are under enormous pressure to deliver on the curriculum.

“Support structures that take into account the intense, mixed emotions of both teachers and learners need to be in place. Solutions-focused conversati­ons and discussion­s around mental health play an important role in fostering resilience in the face of ongoing adversitie­s,” she said.

Govender said a key element for teachers is their ability to recognise signs of mental health disorders in pupils, which often manifest in either disruptive or withdrawn behaviours.

More than 1 100 teachers have died due to Covid-19, according to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

De Sousa said secondary traumatic stress or compassion­ate fatigue can impact all areas of a teacher’s life, and the effects can range from mild to debilitati­ng. “It’s important for teachers to understand the risks, be aware of signs and symptoms, and take action to protect and enhance their mental health.

“Our mental health toolkit for teachers provides them with simple, usable ways to practise daily self-care, and importantl­y, model these positive behaviours for their learners. Teachers need to embrace that when they take good care of themselves, they are also taking good care of their learners,” she said.

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