13 September 2022

Psychosocial and care support services for learners was in the spotlight at the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation’s Thari Programme’s Second Biennial Conference in Botshabelo township in the Free State on 9 September. Held in partnership with the National Department of Basic Education and Free State Department of Education, the event was attended by over 250 stakeholder representatives, including the MEC for Education, Dr PHI Makgoe, at the Seemahale Secondary School. The school is one of eight in the area where the programme has been piloted for the past eight years.

The Thari Programme, which is implemented by the Foundation’s school development partner entity, Adopt-a-School, addresses social issues like domestic violence, neglect and substance abuse that impact learning outcomes. The conference was convened under the theme “The impact of a multi-sectoral approach toward the protection of women and children against violence in our schools and communities,” which references one of the programme’s three pillars. The other are psychosocial support services facilitated by Child and Youth Care Workers (CYCW) and School Based Support Teams (SBST), and the establishment of Safe Parks.

The conference reported on an independent review of the programme by Professor Roelf Reyneke of the University of Free State’s Department of Social Work, and looked to create a pathway towards the programme’s scalability and sustainability.

Professor Reyneke found that some of the main problems learners experience are poverty, learning difficulties, a lack of care by parents or caregivers, poor living environments, and child-headed households. Educators made extensive use of the programme’s CYCWs to intervene in behavioural problems and absenteeism, with many learners referred for counselling, and reported an improvement in learner behaviour and a decline in gangsterism. Professor Reyneke found the programme supported learners with psychosocial problems, which had a positive impact on educational outcomes, and improved school safety. He emphasised that social services in schools help realise children’s right to education and called for the extension of the programme to other schools. A full report of the study is pending.

Ms Ruta Moses, Deputy Chief Education Specialist: Care and Support of the Free State Department of Education, affirmed the need for programmes like Thari. She said a key lesson from the implementation of the Department of Education’s Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) programme is the need for additional personnel to provide day-to-day care and support for learners. CSTL is a comprehensive response to barriers to teaching and learning for learners and educators. It states that children whose emotional, social and physical needs are met within a caring environment, may go on to reach their potential despite the difficulties they face.

The Thari Programme pilot is to be concluded in 2024.

Watch the full conference proceedings here: