Care and Support assist alleviate Covid-19 learner Distress

COVID-19 casts a light on the burden of untreated trauma and socio-economic distress that South Africa has carried for many generations. The pandemic has exacerbated an already fragile psychosocial, health and economic situation, impacting the fabric of life and disrupting the daily routines that underpin the relations between families, friends and the wider community.

Learners are equally impacted by the prolonged school closure due to COVID-19, with worrying long-term negative consequences for their education, physical, emotional and mental health.

To assist the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in its response to COVID-19, the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) is bringing together technical, operational and research capacity to coordinate and to strengthen the DBE’s psychosocial support efforts through the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning Workstream (CSTL).

The aim of the CSTL workstream (Psychosocial Support; Nutrition; Health, Safety & Protection; Social Welfare) is to support the DBE to better respond to child protection risks through tangible on-the-ground interventions that cushion the effect of COVID-19 on learners by providing psychological health and social protection services. 

The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action categorizes child protection risks observed in the current COVID-19 pandemic as follows:

Physical and emotional maltreatment; gender-based violence; mental health and psychosocial distress; child labour; unaccompanied and separated children; social exclusion.

During school closures, parents/caregivers and families play a particularly important role in supporting children. However, while homes should be safe places for children, the reality in many South African homes is quite the opposite. School closures and restrictions on movements create new pressures on parents and caregivers as they struggle with the challenges of childcare and home schooling. Children and families who are already vulnerable due to poverty or those who live in overcrowded environments are at greater risk. Equipping parents with factually accurate information and skills to support their children becomes particularly important during periods of school closure.

NECT CEO, Mr Godwin Khosa says ‘’To mitigate the current COVID-19 disruption requires a collective response, involving government, civil society, the community, schools, and parents/caregivers. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that the economic, physical, emotional and mental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people are minimised’’.

The DBE’s child protection response requires cross sectoral collaboration so that the wellbeing of learners and teachers is addressed from a holistic perspective. There are numerous benefits to providing care and support to learners and educators through schools - for the workstream the most important single driving factor for mainstreaming CSTL within education is the direct impact of CSTL on core education outcomes – namely improved access, retention and achievement well beyond COVID-19.

© 2019 National Education Collaboration Trust