THE government is set to offer postCovid-19 counselling sessions to learners to deal with depression and anxiety following the disruption caused by the months away from school during the pandemic.
This comes as a local top psychiatrist — Nemache Mawere — who is based at Ingutsheni Psychiatric Hospital in Bulawayo, told the Daily News that most children’s mental health was affected by coronavirus.
Since last year, the school calendar has been severely affected with learners going to school for only four months due to the lockdowns imposed by authorities to curb the spread of Covid-19.
During the down time, a number of learners were not able to follow online and radio lessons and some of them began to engage in vices like drug abuse, reckless sexual behaviour and crime. The poverty in most communities also forced some learners to look for menial work in order to put food on the table.
On Tuesday, the government announced that examination classes should return to school for face-to-face lessons starting on March 15 while the rest of the classes should resume a week later.
Communications director in Primary and Secondary Education ministry Taungana Ndoro said the government was aware learners had been through a lot during the various lockdowns.
“The ministry will continue to encourage schools to use child-friendly methods to urgently identify learners whose experiences in the community and home circumstances may have resulted in them exhibiting signs of trauma, distress, fear or disinterest in school.
“Priority attention should be given to learners who experienced bereavements, family turmoil, smoking, alcohol and other substance abuse, survivors of violence and child labour.
“Time will be set aside for our ministry’s core guidance and counselling teams to provide confidential psychosocial support first aid during the course of the school day,” Ndoro said. Speaking to the Daily News earlier this week, Mawere said learners had suffered a lot emotionally as a result of the pandemic.
“It is very important that school children get priority because they have suffered a lot of anxiety, depression and acute stress disorder due to the environment they are living under; very stressful, lockdown isolation, disruption of lifestyle, uncertainties, return to school procedures, online classes, teachers’ strikes and attitudes to work.
“We are trying to do a post Covid-19 programme with the schools, we need to conscientise the children and parents about these issues because Covid-19 has many mental challenges,” Mawere said.
He said the government should support schools with online learning resources because it would be difficult to cover all areas with face-to face lessons.