File picture: Lynne Sladky/AP
Pretoria - Pupils, including matriculants, must be taught that failing does not necessarily mean the end of their future.

In addition, the Department of Education and psychologists urged parents to monitor their children for any signs of depression or suicidal thoughts in the event of poor academic results.

The warning comes after a Grade 11 pupil from Strauss Secondary School in Ekangala committed suicide after receiving his year-end report on December 6.

It is alleged his mother found him hanging in the garage at their home.

Emergency medical services were called to the scene and the pupil was transported to Dark City clinic, where he was declared dead on arrival.

Another Grade 11 pupil, from Soshanguve, allegedly threw himself on the railway tracks when he found out he had failed Grade 10.

Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said: “We appeal to pupils not to commit suicide and emphasise that failing a grade does not signify the end; we all fail at some point, but we must be encouraged to start over and strive to reach our desired goals.

“Suicide is not an option since intervention and support measures are available for pupils. The department urges parents and the community to closely monitor the behaviour of pupils and seek intervention timeously.”

Clinical psychologist Christopher Langefeld said suicides were particularly prevalent during December and January when pupils received their academic results.

Langefeld said this was especially because all pupils were concerned with what would happen to them the next year.

He said: “Once pupils find out they have not done as well as they had hoped, it essentially shuts down the plans they had for the following year.”

There were a few tell-tale signs parents and concerned family representatives should take note of, which he said could signal a bigger problem.

Among them was when a person became socially withdrawn, down or increasingly quiet.

“This could manifest in the child displaying increased irritability, tantrums, fearfulness, lack of sleep or appetite changes,” he added.

In the worst case scenario, Langefeld said, some people going through emotionally challenging times could turn to substances such as ecstasy, marijuana or alcohol to help them cope.

Tebogo Monyamane, another clinical psychologist, added that parents should also look out if their children express being hopeless, overly self-critical and losing interest in the things they loved doing.

Monyamane said it was important for parents to be supportive and to encourage their children to consider other options.

However, if the child seemed to be struggling, they had to consider seeking professional help.

She said: “Whether it is failing a grade or not making it into the desired university course, options are still in abundance for learners. Either by upgrading of marks or looking into courses at vocational institutions. Children tend to feel ashamed, and it’s crucial for parents to try to understand how their child is feeling.

“Then work at reassuring and encouraging them to see this as just a small stumbling block,” Monyamane concluded.

The department urged pupils experiencing depression to phone Childcare at 0800 055 555 or Childline Gauteng on 011 645 2000.

Pretoria News