Matrics under pressure
Cape Town - AFTER losing her mother to Covid-19 in June, one matric pupil is not letting circumstances get in her way.
This year, matric pupils have dealt with a heavy workload, uncertainty of making it to university and the pressures of being a teenager while writing the final exams.
Adding Covid-19 to the mix - with many families having lost loved ones and jobs - some pupils have been faced with great difficulties.
Azola Mgudlwa, 17, from Ntlanganiso High School, said although she was doing her best to pass the exams, it has been the “worst year ever”.
“My mom passed away in June because of Covid-19. It really affected me, but because she had really big dreams for us, I told myself that I will not let her down,” she said.
Mgudlwa, who lives in a two-room shack with her father and two younger siblings, said: “The disruption because of the virus was one thing, but then when people started losing jobs and others dying, things just got really scary. Especially in the beginning.
“I live in a very impoverished community where many people don’t have much hope for the future.
“I struggle to study around here because of the noise. There are always people moving up and down, drinking, robbing people or doing something. So, sometimes I study in the early hours of the morning when it is less noisy. I just have to pass,” she explained.
Emihle Mnqingo, a Cape Town High School pupil from Delft, said her heavy workload made her doubt her abilities.
“I feel a bit demotivated when it comes to my schoolwork, but I always remind myself of the future that I owe myself, so despite the challenges and circumstances, I have to give that future to myself,” she said.
Earlier this month, two Grade 11 pupils committed suicide. Jade Gouws, 17, died on Wednesday evening, November 11, at her family home in Drakenstein while Zara Malherbe, 17, died on Friday afternoon, November 13. Both were pupils at La Rochelle Girls’ High School in Paarl.
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta from the Education Transformation Network has called on the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to help teachers better deal with depression and suicide among pupils.
WCED spokesperson Kerry Mauchline said the department has made resources available for children to seek help. She also said pupils had access to the department’s psycho-social support. Mauchline said it was difficult to establish the cause of suicides and “there is sometimes no pre-indication of mental health difficulties”.
“We urge any learner who is struggling emotionally and needs psycho-social support to alert their teachers or to contact the toll-free Safe Schools hotline (0800 45 46 47) if they do not feel comfortable speaking to a school staff member,” she said.
South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) spokesperson Kayla Phillips said teen suicide was a big problem in SA with so many teens feeling down, depressed or dealing with so many problems they feel there are no solutions and no way out.
“If a teenager is feeling that suicide is their only way out, help them and call Sadag or go to an adult, a parent or a teacher as soon as you can. There is always help. There is always a way out.”
She said 75% of people who committed suicide showed warning signs.
For help, contact Sadag’s 24 hour suicide helpline on 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393. The organisation offers free telephone counselling, crisis intervention, information and referrals nationwide.