The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has joined forces with the Gauteng Department of Health to develop strategies to combat the alarming rise in suicides among learners within the province.
Recent data has highlighted a concerning trend of suicides among learners and staff members within Gauteng’s education sector. Since the start of the academic year, the province has witnessed 40 reported suicides in its schools.
Steve Mabona, spokesperson for the GDE, expressed solidarity with the families and friends affected by these tragic deaths. The most recent incident occurred on September 8. It involved the apparent suicide of an 11-year-old Grade Five girl from Brakpan, who had reportedly faced parental reprimand for theft.
Suicide is emerging as a prominent cause of death among young people, with learners facing challenges that leave them feeling vulnerable, hopeless, and overwhelmed. Anxiety, depression, bullying, online abuse, violence, and cyberbullying contribute to the rising rates of learner suicides.
With the increasing presence of digital technologies, online abuse and violence have become pervasive, making learners vulnerable to exploitation by online predators.
Mabona noted that there have been over 300 reported learner deaths, including 40 alleged suicides, since the beginning of the year. These tragic events have significantly affected learners, teachers, and the broader educational community.
In light of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, the GDE emphasises the need for measures to address the issue. These measures include reducing stigma, fostering meaningful social connections, creating safe school spaces, and facilitating referrals for professional support.
The department has also contacted the Gauteng Department of Health to comprehensively analyse suicide cases to understand the underlying causes and drivers. The GDE has initiated several interventions in response to the crisis, including deploying learner support agents, social workers, and substance abuse awareness coaches to schools.
Additionally, the department is promoting the Childline toll-free number (116) to provide free counselling services for learners and teachers needing support. These initiatives aim to curb the rising trend of learner suicides and enhance mental wellness within the educational system.
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