Namibia
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37 teachers, pupils take their lives in 2022

The executive director of education, arts and culture, Sanet Steenkamp, has disclosed that a total of 37 teachers and pupils took their own lives in 2022.

She revealed this on Desert Radio earlier this week, while giving an update on schools’ readiness for the new academic term.

Steenkamp said the ministry recorded a total of 218 teacher deaths last year, of which 24 were the result of suicide.

“Equally, in the same year, we recorded 178 pupils who died, and sadly, 13 of them died as a result of suicide,” she said.
Steenkamp, who is currently in Botswana, said the ministry has a workforce of more than 31 000 teachers.

“It is a sad statistic for us, but these are the realities we must touch on. What is it that drives our pupils to commit suicide?

“It’s a desperate call for help we should all answer as a collective,” she said.

Steenkamp yesterday said life skills teachers are well trained to assist pupils and other teachers to deal with mental health issues and to offer specific guidelines.

“We have a ‘safe school’ policy in place, and if there is still a teacher who has not studied this policy, which is a user-friendly document, they must make time to go through it.

“I also encourage all teachers to visit their school principals to ask for even two days to discuss the safe school policy and how to address the issue of suicide,” she said.

Christopher Boois (11) took his life last month after he was allegedly bullied, sparking outrage from parents and community leaders.

Steenkamp said the ministry takes bullying in schools seriously and is working on the issue on a daily basis.

“I am happy that parents are speaking up, because at each level you have a role-player who must fulfil a function. Uncomfortable discussions must start taking place with our children,” she said.

According to her, bullying is a systemic issue and there is a need to raise awareness among children to speak up when they experience this.

“We have a Namibia Safe School Campaign where we work with very well-trained police officers visiting schools and raising more awareness on bullying in conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund,” Steenkamp said.

She urged teachers to familiarise themselves with the ministry’s Namibia Safe School policy.

AMONG HIGHEST IN AFRICA

In the meantime, health and social services deputy minister Esther Muinjangue, recently revealed that Namibia’s suicide rate is now among the highest on the continent.

“According to the World Health Organisation, Namibia’s suicide rate stands at 9,7 per 100 000 people, placing it among the highest in Africa,” Muinjangue said.

She said 779 Namibians took their own lives between January 2021 and July 2022, of which 643 were adult men, while 106 were adult women.

She said 18 boys and 12 girls took their own lives.

“We must acknowledge that our work in suicide prevention is not merely important, it is imperative,” Muinjangue said.

NEW CURRICULUM

Steenkamp urged teachers to plan well in advance of their calendars to better manage the pressure at various schools across the country.

“We can admit that there has been inadequate support to many of the teachers, especially teachers teaching AS level,” she said.

However, Steenkamp stressed that the new curriculum is among the most progressive in the world.

In light of schools having opened this week, she said the ministry has allocated more than N$10 million to specific subject content knowledge training.

“We have also made N$40 million available to all our schools with a practical component for technical workshops and science laboratories,” she said.

Steenlamp said an amount of N$68 000 was given to schools specifically for practical purposes.

“A school can no longer say we did not have the practical things for subjects such as biology, physical science, home economics, etc.,” she said.

In the meantime, the smallest budget amount given to a school this year was N$32 000, particularly in addition to the school grant.