Teachers’ perceptions of the psycho-social effects of COVID-19 on learners’ well-being in South African schools
The lockdown the South African government implemented in 2020 to contain the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in school closures. During this time, and also when learners were allowed to attend school again, the focus was on the physical health and safety of the learners. However, in the process, schools might have neglected the psycho-social and mental well-being of learners, which is a state in which learners are able to manage stress and function optimally. This paper reports on a study that investigated teachers’ views on how learners’ psycho-social and mental well-being was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews to gather data from 17 teachers from five schools in two districts of the North-West Province in South Africa. The school mental health theoretical framework was used for the study because of its focus on the psycho-social mental health of learners and the role of institutions in supporting mental health. The findings indicate that learners experienced a higher level of emotional distress during the lockdown. This was caused by an increase in fear, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, anger and aggression during the pandemic. Although learners from all the schools were negatively affected by COVID-19, learners from low-income schools that had limited access to resources were affected more due to the limited professional psycho-social support they received. This highlights the need for Education Departments to build the capacity of all South African schools to address the emotional and psycho-social well-being of their learners. It is vital that schools commit themselves to enabling learners to develop a high level of resilience and antifragility at all times, not just during major crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Oliver Gore, Corlia Twine, Johan Botha, Shantha Naidoo
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