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Minimising learners’ stress levels during the examination period

Stress is unavoidable and every individual undergoes some form of stress in his or her life time. Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension arising from a particular situation, and the body's way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. A moderate amount of stress can provide valuable motivation to learners for example, to take action and to start studying and preparing for the examinations.

Examination periods are always a stressful time for learners, as well as parents, guardians, care-givers and teachers who act as support structures to learners during this time.  There are various ways in which parents and teachers can help learners to minimise their stress levels.

Parents and teachers should watch for emotional signs and behaviour such as irritability; tearfulness; negative self-talk such as “I know I won’t pass”; panic attacks; breathing difficulties; smoking; and using alcohol or other drugs as coping mechanisms. Physical signs and symptoms such as sleeplessness; a loss of appetite; overeating; aches and pains that are not related to illness and dizziness could also be experienced. Professional help should be sought when these signs and symptoms are being experienced.

The Psychosocial Support Directorate, located within the Care and Support in Schools Chief Directorate in the DBE, offers the following stress management tips for learners: to have an open relationship that encourages communication with the child, this will give children the confidence to talk about difficult situations that they are experiencing; to take an interest and become involved in your child’s school work; to talk to your child about how to manage and discuss stressful and challenging situations; to listen with empathy to their concerns; and to reassure them of your unconditional love, irrespective of the outcome of the examination.

In relation to exams, encourage your child to develop a study time-table; take necessary breaks; not to over study when he/she is exhausted; do some form of physical activity; get enough rest or sleep; eat healthy meals; and to avoid fast foods, fizzy sweetened drinks and caffeine during this period. For those learners without adult supervision at home, the School Governing Body (SGB) together with the School Based Support Team, can arrange programmes to support them by providing additional meals; arranging supervised study time/groups; presenting motivational talks; and encouraging learners to work towards their full potential.

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