By Safiyia Stanfley, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Education in the Northern Cape:
The Democratic Alliance will be submitting written questions to the Northern Cape department of Education to determine the extent and nature of psychosocial support services provided to educators in the province.
This follows a revelation published in the Sowetan today that 9 in 10 educators are taking anti-depressants to help them cope with the demands of the teaching profession. Teachers take sick leave for illnesses related to stress and many young teachers are suffering from hypertension.
Clearly, this has an undesirable effect on the quality of education offered to learners.
Research has shown that the key to improving the quality of education is the amount of hours spent in class. If you have an unhappy, unhealthy teacher, you will have an unproductive teacher and the quality of education will suffer. If you take professional care of your teachers and provide them with the necessary support through employee health and wellness programmes, you will see an increase in productivity and an improvement in the quality of education.
We also need to address the stigma around mental illness. A teacher who suffers from depression needs to be supported, not stigmatized.
You are not lazy if you are depressed; you are ill and need assistance. It is unacceptable that mental health services in the province as a whole is lagging behind the norm due to the slow construction of the mental health hospital in Kimberley.
Previous queries to the department on psychosocial support services, both to teachers and learners, have gone unanswered. We will continue to pursue this matter until we receive a satisfactory response.