Stressed out staff
In recent times, there has been much talk about the causes of teachers stress. Recently the manager of the central regional office of the North West department of education reported at a principals meeting that they were processing up to 500 leave forms a week for teachers who were lying in hospitals because of stress.
Teachers are clearly battling to find the right approach to manage kids at the workplace and to provide basic education.
For instance, teachers experience stress as they try to find the right approach to managing HIV/Aids at school level. The education department has not suggested any approach and this has led to confusion between teachers and principals.
Although Aids policies in each school are democratically formulated, it does not solve day-to-day problems. For instance, should the teacher play an active role in the cognitive development of the healthy pupils or rather do more to assist learners who are behind the rest of the class?
Infected pupils are often left out, lying helpless for two to six weeks in hospitals—and when they feel better they come to school only to find others are ahead in the curriculum.
Teachers try to manage the whole class to accommodate such breaks and at the same time track, secretly, the health and sickness of their learners. Furthermore, teachers families are also in situations where they are infected and affected by HIV/Aids.
As a consequence, specific approaches in managing the virus in schools often depends on understanding the family dynamics, and teachers and learners must identify the different situations for themselves.
Then there is also the challenge of teachers having to deal with groundless suspicions of prolonged coughing, absenteeism and poverty related diseases.
So, should teachers take stress leave or should they pretend nothing is happening?
Difficult situations arise at random and teachers are caught up in the web of stressful situations rather than promoting friendship and care.
Peter Makgwana is the principal of St Marys Primary School in Mafikeng, North West. This is the next contribution to our series observing the Catholic education networks Care of the Teacher Year