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Pupils offered counselling to help cope with anxiety of returning to school during pandemic

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Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has said her department has partnered with Unicef and the National Education Collaboration Trust in order to provide psycho-social support to pupils who fear going back to school due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga. File picture.

BASIC Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, has said her department has partnered with Unicef and the National Education Collaboration Trust in order to provide psycho-social support to pupils who feared going back to school due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Motshekga said this when responding to parliamentary questions from EFF MP Reneiloe Mashabela.

Mashabela had asked her whether the department had employed the services of psychologists to assist teachers and pupils who were facing the anxiety of being forced to go back to school despite fears of the virus.

Mashabela’s parliamentary question came hot on the heels of the department briefing to Parliament last week that it was projecting a drop-out of 75 452 pupils from grades 7 and 12 due to the Covid-19 pandemic this academic year.

In her written response, Motshekga said her department has partnered with the National Education Collaboration Trust and Unicef to mobilise psycho-social support to pupils who are anxious about going back to school due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Unicef has contracted Childline to provide services to children through their call centre,” she said.

The minister also said that provincial departments have historically employed psychologists and social workers to support pupils and teachers.

“However, there are severe shortages,” she added.

“Due to the expected impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of learners and educators, and the limited psycho-social support capacity within the sector, the Department of Basic Education collaborated with the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development as well as other psycho-social support non-governmental organisations and organisations,” she said.

Motshekga said that the Department of Social Development has availed some interns in some provinces.

“In addition, some provincial departments have increased the number of learner support agents in schools,” she said.