Mental health challenges make it difficult for children to concentrate in school, form friendships and make positive choices that can impact the rest of their lives.
Traditionally, educators have focused on academics – which of course is a primary objective for schools. However, given how much of their lives children spend in an education setting, shouldn’t the focus also be on improving their overall wellbeing?
“The phrase “Maslow before Bloom” is frequently used in education circles. It is typically meant to communicate how learners need their basic needs met before academic learning can be fully embraced.
It is against this background that Community Keepers works with educators, to ensure leaners have their basic needs met, so that they can focus on academic teaching. The organisation has provided psycho-social support, social and emotional learning opportunities, therapeutic counselling, support groups and resilience building workshops for over 30 000 learners, 3 000 educators and 17 000 parents, per year, in their 31 partner school communities in poor communities.
This year Community Keepers introduced evidence based standard tools to measure the impact and took the lead from the Sustainable Development Goal 3.4.2 indicator which is Subjective Well-being. “It has been an interesting experience for both our Therapists and our Learners as we get used to the scales”, says Gerrit Laning, CEO.
“Breaking the cycle of trauma is critical for the well-being of family and children, and has a relevance to social justice, because trauma diminishes life opportunities across generations and hinders social mobility. We work together to destigmatise mental health issues, destigmatise help seeking behaviour and enhance mental health literacy, ” says Gerrit Laning, CEO.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent life stressors and alternative learning environments, children and adolescents’ mental health and academic success are at the forefront of Community Keepers’ mind.
“At Community Keepers we welcome the ‘disruptive child’; the ‘difficult teenager’; the learner who is withdrawn, anxious or angry; and those who appear to cope but are masking, to keep the peace. These are the learners who need us most”, says Gerrit Laning, CEO
By supporting the “whole child,” Community Keepers advocates for early identification of learner disengagement and psycho-social needs, offering personal and group support with the end goal of changing the trajectory of their lives and supporting every learner’s well-being.