School welcomes counselling room, newspaper project

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The Chris Hani Secondary School, in Khayelitsha, has welcomed a much needed counsellor, the assistance in developing a counselling room as well as a newspaper project to equip children with further skills. ER24’s Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Boden, and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Robyn Holgate, were shocked to hear about the traumatic incidents that many of the children are exposed to. Boden and Holgate, who are passionate about helping people, realised that something needed to be done as a matter of urgency. Children at the school, which specialises in dance, arts and culture, will now be able to receive assistance from an ER24 counsellor. Mediclinic converted a room at the school into a fully functional counselling room. Lwazi Mankahla, the Corporate Social Investment Manager at Mediclinic, said, “The children are in great need of counselling. They are involved in a number of traumatic incidents that at their age, they should not be experiencing. Some of the children are struggling to concentrate in school as a result of the violence and other traumatic incidents they are exposed to. “We decided to upgrade the sick room into a counselling room. We painted the room, furnished it and further equipped it with all that is needed to help the children. It will serve as a sick room and counselling room.” Adriaan Grobler, Trauma Support Counsellor for ER24 in the Western Cape region who will be available to the children, said, “There are learners who have been affected by sexual assault, abortions and suicide among other things. Someone needed to reach out to the children. “I will be available to work with them once a week. Children in need of assistance will be identified by the teachers and other learners. Children who are in need and approach me on their own will also be assisted. I will guide and assist the children. I will offer counselling to help them through their difficult times,” he said. In addition, ER24 will host a series of educational talks and demonstrations to equip the children with simple skills needed to assist someone in a time of need. Wound care, what to do if someone is choking and what to do if someone is stabbed, are some of the topics that will be discussed. Commenting on the counselling room, Madoda Mahlutshana, the principal of the school, said, “The counselling room is something that we have been longing for. It was my wish to get someone to help the children. The counsellor is going to add value in the form of emotional support for our learners. Now they can be debriefed and helped. “Some children are victims of rape or abuse. There are suicides and attempted suicides. They witness stabbings and other incidents committed against their loved ones. The counselling will help them cope with their problems.” Newspaper project During one of his visits to the school, Dr Mvula Yoyo, Transformation Executive at Mediclinic, was informed that the school wanted to start a newspaper. Dr Yoyo helped them connect with the correct person at Media24. Media24 runs a remarkable programme called WeCan24 which provides training to aspiring young journalists. Children are provided with the tools needed to establish their own online school news network. Some learners from the school attended workshops at Media24’s offices to learn about newspaper planning, how to conduct successful interviews and how to write articles among various other skills. Mahlutshana said the aim of the newspaper project is to sharpen learners’ skills in reading and writing. “We wanted to equip the children with the skills to be able to write their own stories and have them published. We want them to experience writing their own stories, editing them and making them available to their community. By doing this they can further develop their skills. We are doing a lot of arts and culture activities for example and we want the community to know what the children are doing by having them, the children, communicate these things in the newspaper, magazine or newsletter,” he said. Mahlutshana added that there are “great things happening at the school”. “One learner won an external award after writing a story for Heritage Month. Former students recently organised a Career Expo for schools in the area. Some of our learners were selected to perform in a band at an event, called the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child, in Sweden. “We want to be one of the best schools in the country and we want to help our children deal with problems they are experiencing. We thank Media24, which through their WeCan24 programme, is helping us develop our children by having them learn how to compose and develop a story among other things. We thank Mediclinic and ER24 for offering their much needed help,” he said. Mankahla said it is a pleasure helping the Chris Hani Secondary School. “This school is doing great things. We were impressed by the professionalism and enthusiasm of the school principal and staff. It is a well-managed school. Drug abuse is a problem in this area however, the principal is trying to address this with the children. Some of children come from homes where they haven’t eaten. This is addressed by the school through their food programme. The principal is also trying to establish new sporting activities for the children. The school teaches drama, modern dancing and a number of other courses. Despite their limitations from a resources perspective, they have managed to push past that and excel. The matric pass rate has also improved dramatically compared to five years ago. They have some challenges but are doing things to address these challenges. This particular school has really impressed us. “We believe that what Grobler is doing will assist the children from a mental health perspective,” he said.  

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