PALAPYE: The role played by educators to students and learners as mentors, role models and counsellors has become even more risky and precarious, leading to rising mental health challenges among teachers, a top unionist has said.
Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) president, Winston Radikolo said in order to deal with the mental challenges faced by teachers and increasingly, learners as well, government must urgently finalise the National Mental Health Framework.
Radikolo was making a keynote address at the just ended BOSETU elective congress in Palapye. The congress was themed “Transforming the education sector in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.”
“This (mental health frame work) we believe is the only progressive avenue to follow in order to contain the high cases of mental and psychological challenges on educators as a result of the difficulties the work environment exposes them to,” Radikolo said.
He added: “Teachers will continue to be faced with very challenging emerging issues such psychological problems as a result of COVID-19 and its impact.”
Radikolo also said COVID-19 has worsened the mental health of some of the educators and learners across the country advising that among others, the National Mental Health Framework could boost social cohesion, thereby promoting better mental health.
Some of the challenges teachers often grapple with which contribute to mental health problems include; high student-educator ratio, lack of resources, poor infrastructure and lack of accommodation.
The International Labour Organisation and its constituents, being governments, workers and employers, have acknowledged that COVID-19 is not only a threat to public health but also affects the economy and social aspects. As a result the organisation observed that in the long term, this would affect livelihoods leading to serious mental problems among workers.
Meanwhile, still at the congress, Radikolo called for an urgent need and radical transformation of the country’s education system towards digitalisation and infusion of technology. He emphasised that internet connectivity and the use of IT in instructional delivery by educators was long overdue.
“The use of IT (in a bid to counter the spread of COVID-19) has exposed the level of inequalities in schools. For example, the haves enjoy access to virtual classrooms and the have-nots do not.
The IT revolution in schools should be expedited as it can help to foster the learning process in many ways.”
He added that the government should also start to embrace the idea of having many workers working from home.
“We call on our various Ministries to embrace fully, the working from home and flexible hours arrangement with a deliberate intention of ultimately building a strong virtual culture of doing business. It is this change that will partly quicken our pace towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There should be no looking back now,” he said.
He pointed out that a strong virtual culture could improve the country’s competitiveness within a global setting.