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Gauteng Education MEC Tackles Rising Student Suicides Amid Recent Tragedy



Gauteng MEC Tackles Rising Student Suicides Amid Recent Tragedy

Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane has unveiled a comprehensive plan to address the alarming issue of student suicides, with more than 40 reported cases in the province’s schools since the start of 2023.

The most recent tragedy unfolded on Friday when an 11-year-old Grade 5 student from Anzac Primary School in Brakpan took her own life following a parental reprimand for an alleged theft of R300 as reported by News24.

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Expressing deep concern, Chiloane remarked, “As the department, we are devastated by these deaths and believe those numbers constitute far too many young lives that have been taken away from their families, friends, and our schools before reaching their full potential. We pledge our solidarity and support to the families and friends that were befallen by these tragic, premature deaths.”

Chiloane recognised that students grapple with various challenges, which can leave them feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. These issues encompass anxiety, depression, bullying, violence, and online abuse.


He continued, “Information at our disposal indicates that, all in all, there have been no less than 300 cases of learner deaths reported to the Gauteng Department of Education, including the 40 which are alleged suicides, since the start of the year. We are aware that the deaths have had a massive psychological impact on our learners, teachers, and the greater schooling community. It is, therefore, imperative that, in the immediate, we provide support to those affected and, in the long term, we respond with lasting solutions which can help turn the situation around.”

The department has already initiated several measures to address this crisis, including deploying 500 learner support agents for early warning and peer counselling in 1,200 schools. Additionally, 120 social workers have been sent to assist in risk assessments, 500 Ke Moja coaches are aiding substance abuse awareness, and the Childline toll-free number (116) has been promoted to provide free counselling services for learners and educators.

Furthermore, the department is partnering with organisations like the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance, the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), Childline, the Teddy Bear Foundation, and the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers to implement additional interventions aimed at helping students. Teachers cope with challenges that may lead to suicide or suicidal thoughts.

Chiloane emphasised, “We will, together with Sadag, in the coming weeks, be visiting schools to raise awareness about the causes of suicide and how to prevent suicide. Our talks with learners and their parents will also focus on debunking common suicide myths, raising awareness about the kind of language to use when referring to suicide, and general advice on dealing with people displaying suicidal signs.”

The plan also includes measures to reduce violence in schools, acknowledging that violence disrupts the safety and well-being of the school community and hinders effective learning and teaching. To address this issue, the department has launched the Operation Kgutla Molao campaign, which will deploy security guards to 75 schools with high crime incidents, distribute handheld detectors to 245 schools, provide e-panic buttons to over 3,000 staff members, and install CCTV cameras in 90 schools.


Chiloane concluded, “There are more actions that will be implemented to improve school safety and learner well-being. These will be priority actions around which crucial resources and communities will be mobilised.”

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Photo: Twitter / @News24

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