One psychologist for every 69, 000 pupils

A report by the South African Democratic Teachers Union paints a bleak picture of psychological and trauma counselling services at public schools.
A report by the South African Democratic Teachers Union paints a bleak picture of psychological and trauma counselling services at public schools.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Teachers have bemoaned the shortage of professionals to provide psychological and trauma counselling at public schools.

This emerged during the first day of the three-day conference of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), the biggest teacher union in the country, at Nasrec, south of Joburg
yesterday.

The union said the shortages come at a time when they were much-needed due to the prevalence of violent incidents at schools across the country.

A report presented by Sadtu secretary Mugwena Maluleke painted a bleak picture of
fewer professionals appointed by the department to provide psychological and trauma counselling services.

"There is not more than 1,700 psychosocial services personnel employed by the department of basic education. This means that we have one therapist for every 10,500 learners and one education psychologist responsible for 69,000 learners and one counsellor for 324,000 learners," said Maluleke.

The report also said that the statistics proved "beyond reasonable doubt that perhaps as a country, we expect the unreasonable from educators".

According to the report SA is one of the worst countries to live in for women and children due to gender-based violence.

"We are a broken society, partly informed by our violent apartheid past that expects teachers to transform our society for the better without the necessary support.

"Gender-based violence has taken away the dignity of women and children," said Maluleke.

He said Sadtu will soon be tabling "a firm proposal for a different approach to curriculum design and development" that would integrate gender-based violence.

"We will be proposing a model that was tested with 28 European countries. The model is based on the assumption that domestic and gender violence are rooted in a deeply grounded culture and that perpetuates the subjugation of women and girls as well as ethnic minorities and handicapped people," he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who delivered the keynote address, said educators were best-placed to see if a child is under stress or abused in some way or another.

"We all know that education can open doors to a better quality of life. Too many teachers are overburdened and under resourced, and it is the
duty of the government to make conditions better for teachers and to make schools safer," said Ramaphosa.

The union lambasted teachers who rape or have sexual relationships with pupils.

"We encourage a strong partnership between the South African Council for
Educators, education labour relations council and the union to deal with abuse. Any teacher who commits rape or have sexual relationships with a learner must be dealt with in terms of the law. Sex pests, once proven in the court of law, must be sanctioned," said Sadtu president Magope Maphila.

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