‘Reintroduce the Word of God in schools to counter demons’, says Hope4Sa

Hope4SA has called for the reintroduction of the ‘Word of God’ in schools to assist pupils with mental health issues. Picture: Supplied

Hope4SA has called for the reintroduction of the ‘Word of God’ in schools to assist pupils with mental health issues. Picture: Supplied

Published May 19, 2024


Hope4SA has called for the reintroduction of the “Word of God” in schools through dedicated church ministerial services to support pupils suffering from depression and other mental health issues.

In a statement issued by the organisation last week, the party said, “Hope4SA would like to express its sadness and exasperation at the alarming increase in the number of incidents of violence in Gauteng schools in the form of bullying, suicide, stabbing and shooting. Recently we have witnessed a series of devastating incidents where four learners from Eqinisweni Secondary School in Ivory Park allegedly committed suicide, between April 26 and May 5.

“According to information released by the Gauteng Department of Education, the first incident occurred on Friday, 26 April, 2024. It is alleged that a Grade 10 female learner drank poison at home. She was rushed to a local clinic, where she was unfortunately declared dead. On Thursday, May 2, 2024, a Grade 11 female learner was found dead at home by her parents. It is alleged that she tragically took her own life by consuming poison.

“Subsequently, on Friday, May 3, 2024, a Grade 11 male learner was hospitalised after allegedly consuming poison. Unfortunately, he passed away while receiving medical treatment.

“On Sunday, May 5, 2024, a Grade 12 female learner also allegedly ingested poison at home and tragically passed away while being transported to a nearby clinic.”

The organisation added that these incidents unmistakably demonstrated that schools, which are meant to be safe havens, have become perilous environments jeopardising the lives of both students and teachers.

It emphasised that in addressing spiritually driven problems like bullying, which purportedly results in student suicides, teachers struggle to effectively tackle such issues due to the difficulty of discerning individual challenges amid overcrowded classrooms.

The party also stressed that nearly one in ten teenage deaths in South Africa each year are the result of suicide.

“Hope4SA advocates for establishing safe environments where learners can openly discuss the spiritual and mental challenges they encounter. We emphasise once more our plea for reintroducing the Word of God through dedicated church ministerial services in schools.

“When pastors, parents, teachers and friends notice a teenager showing signs of suicidal risk, they should be open to listening without criticism, offer reassurance of their care and gently enquire about any suicidal thoughts. Avoid trying to dissuade them from suicidal feelings or using guilt-inducing statements like ‘suicide would hurt your family'. Instead, let them know that you care, want to understand, and assure them that they are not alone. Remind them that problems and suicidal feelings are temporary and depression can be treated,“ said Hope4SA in the statement.

The organisation added that those wanting to help a depressed teenager could recommend that they speak to an external party, such as a pastor, teacher, doctor or counsellor, and offer to accompany them for support.

They added that if there were concerns about suicide risk, the person should be taken promptly to a clinic or emergency room.

“After identifying the condition, continue to provide support and take an active role. This may involve ensuring they take prescribed medication or attend scheduled counselling sessions,” read the statement.

However, spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education Elijah Mhlanga said the Word of God was never taken away.

“Many schools start assembly with scripture reading and others invite pastors to preach in their schools. Nothing wrong with that. Why do they say the Word of God was removed?”

The Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) national spokesperson, Matthew Parks, said that South Africa's Constitution provides for a secular state and that it provides for religion within the school curriculum.

“All schools, including religious schools, fall within the prescripts of the law and the curriculum.

“This is to protect the rights of learners, respect our cultural and religious diversity and to prevent any abuses.

“Legitimate religious institutions, authorities and schools work closely with the Department of Basic Education to ensure this,” said Parks.

Scholars have argued that violence in South African schools includes threats of violence, psychological abuse, robbery, physical assault, gang violence, corporal punishment, sexual violence and bullying.

The majority of school violence is learner-on-learner violence. The same learners may be both victims and perpetrators.

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