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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Psycho-Social Service (PSS) Workshop held at the Sol Plaatje House, DBE Conference Centre

Programme Director

Mr G. Khosa – NECT CEO and NECT Officials

Ms S. Geyer – DDG

QLTC Officials

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Programme Director, as we rise today, it is appropriate to observe a moment of silence in honour of the dearly departed as directed by His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa.

We pay tribute to the fallen heroes and heroines who died as a result of the virulent pandemic of COVID-19 as well as gender-based violence (GBV).

As we battle the scourge of COVID-19, as well as GBV, and despite our best efforts, as a sector, and as a country, we have lost many of our own: teachers, learners, friends, family members, and co-workers.

On behalf of our Government, we convey our deepest condolences for the loss of lives since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and escalation of GBV. 

Let’s observe a moment of silence in honour of the departed.

Moment of silence!!!!!

Programme Director, we convene today to focus on psycho-social service as a critical component to learner well-being which is crucial in improved learner outcomes.

Psycho-social support is the new glue that we need to keep our schools and communities functioning at optimal levels during these uncertain times and beyond.

It is nearly three months since schools re-opened for all grades, and it is pleasing to note that some form of stability is now evident.

Learners have settled back into a productive routine, and all school-related services such as health, hygiene and nutrition have resumed.

As we know, matriculants are focused on writing their final examinations despite a mountain of challenges.

Programme Director; while the provision of psycho-social service is the work of practitioners, spotting the signs of ill-health requiring psycho-social intervention is the role of teachers, parents and the wider community.

The main aim of this workshop is to demystify the concept of psycho-social service in times of COVID-19.

We intend to build awareness of psycho-social needs in families, schools and the broader community, especially during these uncertain times of the devastation wrought on communities by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We decided that it’s about time that we empower all QLTC officials with the knowledge to help community members build resilience and cope with COVID-19 related stress.

Research shows that resilient individuals display self-confidence, maintain a positive outlook, and set realistic goals.

Most importantly, resilient people deploy ‘practice radical acceptance’ that is to accept the reality of the situation and learn to cope and move on.

We want to extend the network of people with the necessary awareness and basic skills needed for lay counselling, care and psycho-social support in addressing people’s emotional, social, mental and spiritual needs.

In other words, we are building a community of carers beyond the school, but right inside the school communities.

By creating a community of carers with the acute understanding of psycho-social support, you will be in a position to support the emotional well-being of the most vulnerable in society beyond the school premises.

The know-how of the psycho-social interventions can strengthen the families’ abilities to meet a range of children’s needs and to discuss openly what is required.

We are focusing on these psycho-social issues because they are likely to interfere with children’s learning, their behaviour at school and the overall atmosphere of the school environment. 

As we know from our recent history, these learners suffering from emotional issues tend to have their problems spill over into fights inside and outside the school premises.

Programme Director; we need to understand psycho-social well-being in its broader context as a necessary condition for any human being to realise their full potential and to lead fulfilling healthy and productive lives.

We focus on school communities because it houses the massive numbers of vulnerable people, i.e. learners.

Research has shown that the school and classroom environment, as well as the relationships between pupils and the teacher and pupil, can contribute to supporting a child’s psycho-social well-being. 

Experts say, people that have psycho-social well-being status results in increased confidence, high self-esteem, can solve problems, make decisions, build positive social relationships, work together and resolve conflicts without self-harm or harming others.  

As we know all children notwithstanding gender, age, and social status have psycho-social support needs. 

These obviously can vary depending on individual life experiences, their family situation, gender, and even their unique personalities. 

Since the nationwide COVID-19 induced lockdown, including school closures, the psycho-social well-being of children and their families has been compromised in severe and many ways. 

The closure of schools prevented learners from accessing not only learning support but a range of school-related social services such as nutrition, hygiene and health.

Since we re-opened our schools, cases of psycho-social needs have increased tremendously.  

As we know, the cases of psycho-social needs are highest amongst vulnerable groups such as single parents’ households, orphans, child-headed households, and street kids.

We know from experience that the absence of adequate psycho-social support might have unintended consequences amongst teens such an increase in the use of violence to settle disputes.

Unless addressed professionally, prolonged stress and anxiety may lead to Depression which has long-term, harmful effects on a person’s mental health and development.

And in extreme cases, it may lead to untimely deaths due to suicide.

Thus it is important to intervene as a community to stem the tide of inadequate emotional support amongst of our learners.

We must as I said earlier, demystify psycho-social support and begin to view as a process of meeting a child’s emotional, social, mental and spiritual needs.

These are essential elements of positive human development. 

Thus, this workshop is an essential tool to explore how QLTC officials can assist learners and fencing communities in coping with the trauma of COVID-19 and beyond.

We need community activists who understand the principles and practice of psycho-social support to help our learners cope with the trauma of daily life beyond the pandemic.

Studies show that psycho-social support interventions work best if they are not a stand-alone activity but part of a comprehensive, integrated school and community programme.

We are working with the NECT, which has developed a basic set of psycho-social skills guidelines specifically focusing on COVID-19 response mechanisms.

The Psycho-social Skills Guidelines focuses on a holistic, broad-based preventative approach that promotes resilience and how to develop coping strategies across the entire ‘affected and infected’ groups.

These guidelines help to build resilient communities that can withstand the worst effects of traumatic situations such as COVID-19.

In this workshop, we hope to instill the value of care and compassion for all.

You will be taken through information on COVID-19 and definition of key concepts such as psycho-social support.

It is important to learn first how to take care of yourself while offering support to others.

As we know, the language is vital in the healing process, so all participants will learn communication skills to convey information more accurately and professionally.

Other modules will cover how to offer practical support, supporting people who are experiencing stress, providing help in specific situations amongst others.

Programme Director; we also know that during the lockdown cases of gender-based violence (GBV) shot up.

The ‘second pandemic, i.e. gender-based violence’ as His Excellency President Ramaphosa, calls it, tends to disproportionately affect women and children the most.

Programme Director, as I conclude my address, it’s important to say that as a society, we have to be mindful that the COVID-19 pandemic is still lurking in the shadows.

We must remain vigilant.

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is a real possibility.

There’s still no cure either vaccine against the pandemic.

Thus our best bet remains the non-pharmaceutical interventions such as regular handwashing with soap or 70 percent alcohol-based sanitisers and the wearing of cloth masks covering mouth and nose.

As of November 23, 2020, the amount of positive coronavirus (COVID-19) tests grew by 2,080 in South Africa, reaching 769,759 cases in total.

As of the same date, Gauteng was the most affected region with 233,164 confirmed cases, whereas KwaZulu-Natal (Durban) and Cape Town counted 126,130 and 125,919 positive tested coronavirus cases, respectively.

Regrettably, total deaths as a result of COVID-19 stands at over 20 000.

As the President said, the war against COVID-19 remains firmly in our hands.

Finally, I call for compassion during this uncertain time.

As we know, the pandemic has a profound impact not only on economies but on the psycho-social well-being of communities, of which school children remain at high risk hence this workshop.

Let’s work together to support those at risk.

The upcoming festive season is known to be the most challenging period for the recently bereaved, those who suffer from food scarcity, the emotionally unstable, the poor and the sick.

Let’s show compassion and help the needy and the less fortunate to weather the storm.

I thank you.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 12/2/2020
Number of Views: 1350

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