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Mental health
Mental illness heightened among children during global lockdowns: UN
12 June 2020, 8:31 PM

The United Nations (UN) says mental illnesses, such as depression, saw a major spike among children during the coronavirus lockdown around the world. It says isolation, fear and uncertainty are all causing psychological distress.

“We heard some dreadful stories from LGBTIQ young people who were forced to lockdown with parents family and friends who do not accept them for who they are and this is quite worrying and a study published in the journal of American Academy of child and adolescent psychiatry argues that mental health impacts may persist after the end of the lockdown measures as well, ” says UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake.

The international governing body’s remarks come as the World Health Organisation also raised concern about the impact of the pandemic on adolescents and young people.

“Early evidence suggests people in their teens and 20s are at greater risk of depression and anxiety, online harassment, physical and sexual violence and unintended pregnancies, while their ability to seek the services they need is reduced,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus in his COVID-19 address on Friday.

“School and university closures can also have a dramatic impact on the ability of adolescents to access preventive services. In some countries, more than one-third of adolescents with mental health conditions receive their mental health services exclusively at school. Millions of children who are fed through school meal programmes also have reduced access to food. Limited opportunities for physical activity, and increased use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs may have impacts on the long-term health of these young people,” he added.

While urging governments around the world to ensure that interventions are made available and accessible to all people who need them, Ghebreyesus is also calling on  people to take care of their own health. He recommends staying active, eating a nutritious diet and limiting alcohol intake as some of the ways to address the challenges that have been brought by COVID-19.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is the fourth leading cause of disability. Depression is common in people of all ages, but nearly half of affected individuals first experience depression between the ages of 20 and 50.

Mental health is discussed in the video below:  

 

Learners
First week of schools’ reopening did not go smoothly
12 June 2020, 7:32 PM

The first week of the reopening of schools has been marred by disruptions ranging from the closure of schools to protests.

On Monday, Grades 7 and 12 learners headed back to school, two months after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the nationwide lockdown in March.

In her last address on the eve of the reopening of schools across the country, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga gave the assurance that schools would have the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and comply with the coronavirus safety regulations.

In the video below, Minister Motshekga briefs the media on the state of readiness for the reopening of schools:

However, in the first week of learning after about two months, numerous schools have been closed.

The move followed the discovery of coronavirus cases among learners and staff.

In the Western Cape, 66 teachers and two learners tested positive for COVID-19 since schools reopened on the 1st of June.

This while 16 out of 1 500 schools in the province didn’t open because they still had to be sanitized.

In KwaZulu-Natal, at least five schools were closed this week due to coronavirus cases. Two of these schools are in the Pietermaritzburg area, while three others are in Durban.

Despite this, however,  Provincial Education Department Spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa says three of the schools have since been deep-cleaned and will be reopened.

“I can confirm to you that three of those schools have now been cleaned and cleared and the teaching and learning will resume. Already we have two schools in Pietermaritzburg again, we will follow the same process with what we want to achieve. The aim is to ensure that everyone is safe, both educators and learners.”

Learners forced out of school

A group of Congress of South African Students (Cosas) members in the Free State forcefully removed learners at various schools in Bloemfontein. The movement has called for the closure of schools until their demands are met. These include COVID-19 tests to be made compulsory before learners are allowed back in the classrooms. This as 15 matriculants at the Heatherdale Secondary School in the city were sent to Pelonomi Hospital after showing flu-like symptoms.

Free State Cosas Acting Chairperson Jongimpi Memela claims the Education Department misled the public when it announced the state of readiness to resume classes for grade 7 and 12 learners.

Memela says the department was desperate to save the 2020 academic year without adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols.

“We must condemn schools from resuming with immediate effect. We have visited a few schools around the province and we are not happy with the state of schools, in fact, the state of readiness when the department reported that the schools were ready, the department was misleading the nation and everyone in general because you find that hygienically schools are not complying. PPEs are not sufficiently delivered, the social distancing between learners is not realised.”

The Free State Education Department has condemned the calls for schools to be closed, calling them illegal.

“The decision to shut down schools will be unconstitutional and illegal and therefore we frown upon any attempt to derail schooling but we really appreciate their request for a meeting with the Department of Education and as such we will be having a meeting with them on Thursday and hope that their concerns will be ventilated in that meeting. The reality is you don’t test before you screen and you don’t test everyone and our health officials are telling us that the prerequisites for testing is that you start by screening,” says the Department’s Spokesperson Howard Ndaba.

Poor quality masks

Meanwhile, there have been complaints about the poor quality of masks handed out to children when they returned to school this week.

Minister Motshekga has acknowledged that the quality of masks needs to improve.

” I think we can do better. I’ve not heard anything about sanitizers, but the masks I’ve been speaking to colleagues, they’ve kept with the specifications. In the next round, we should do better, we should look for breathable masks, not ordinary masks. For now, I think these kids can tolerate them, but in time I think it must just be a burden to be wearing these masks which are not breathable.  So it’s a matter which I have raised with the colleagues.”

The National Association of Parents in School Governance has called for the immediate shut down of schools that do not have the necessary Personal Protective Equipment. The association has lambasted Motshekga, accusing her of disregarding the lives of children.

“We are very disappointed that our children are subjected to the poor quality of masks that are supposed to be used to protect them as part of the Personal Protective Equipment. They have taken short cuts, just like they have taken short cuts with the reopening of schools without listening to views. In the meantime, every school that does not comply, that does not have PPEs must be shut down immediately until PPEs can be provided,” says the president of the association, Mahlomola Kekana.

Despite the calls to stop the reopening of schools, the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday rejected an application brought by Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) to have classes suspended amid rising COVID-19 cases in South Africa until quality PPEs are made available to educators and learners.

Protesters want Cecil John Rhodes’ statue in Kimberley removed
12 June 2020, 5:41 PM

Academics, writers and artists in Kimberley, in the Northern Cape, are demanding that the local municipality remove a statue of Cecil John Rhodes. Rhodes was one of the founders of the De Beers mining company in the city and an advocate of British imperialism.

The statue has been standing in the Kimberley city centre for more than 100 years.

On Friday, protesters gathered at its foot to protest Rhodes’ legacy which, they say, is shameful and should not be commemorated.

“He represents everything that we do not want. This statue is a symbol. It is a symbol of violence, it is a symbol of extreme violence and we don’t want to be walking past here and be reminded of this violence,”  said one protester.

“The statue represents a sad part of history, we don’t want it here because we are offended by the colonial and apartheid iconography in our city,” added another one.

“It is a slap on our history, it is a slap on our heritage, it’s a slap on our dignity as Africans because we are continuing to suffer this white supremacist values that are legitimised through the statue of Cecil John Rhodes so we cannot have him staying in Kimberley,” explains the convenor of the protest, Thina Nzo.

The local Sol Plaatje Municipality says it will consider the anti-Rhodes protesters’ request.

Oxford university anti-Rhodes protests

The Kimberley demonstration is one of several such protests against the 19th century British colonialist.

More than 1 000 protesters converged on a college at Oxford University on Tuesday, chanting “take it down” and “shame on you.” They were also demanding to the removal of Rhodes’ statue.

In the video below, Rhodes’ statue is removed from University of Cape Town:

The colonialist’s statue was removed from UCT in 2015 following student protests, started by Chumani Maxwele who threw human waste on the statue.

The young people saw the statue as a symbol of institutional racism, Black oppression and patriarchy.

Evariste Ndayishimiye,
Burundi’s President-Elect to take power immediately, court rules
12 June 2020, 5:27 PM

Burundi’s constitutional court has agreed that President-Elect, Evariste Ndayishimiye, should be sworn in immediately following the death of former leader Pierre Nkurunziza, the government said in a statement posted to Twitter on Friday.

The constitution provides for the Speaker of Parliament to take over in such a situation. The court ruled, however, that “the interim period is not necessary and that Ndayishimiye must be sworn in as soon as possible”, the government said.

Official mourning 

Burundi began an official period of mourning for President Nkurunziza on Wednesday, a day after the announcement of his death from a heart attack at the age of 55 shocked the impoverished East African nation.

Wearing face masks and gloves to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, senior government officials, foreign ambassadors and religious leaders lined up to sign a condolence book opened in his memory at the presidential palace.

In the video below, Kurunziza’s legacy is discussed:

Nkurunziza’s successor 

Burundi’s economy is mired in poverty and cut off by international donors after the United Nations documented the widespread rape, torture and murder of political opponents by ruling party activists and state security forces.

It remains unclear whether the powerful cabal of army generals and security chiefs who propped up Nkurunziza during his 15-year rule remain united over the succession.

Nkurunziza had been due to stand down in August, making way for retired general  Ndayishimiye, who won an election last month that the opposition said was marred by violence and rigging. The constitutional court last week rejected the rigging charges.

Burundi expelled the representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) last month amid criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. It has carried out very few tests and held large rallies during the election period.

Power
City Power warns of unplanned power outages around Johannesburg
12 June 2020, 3:36 PM

Johannesburg’s City Power is warning of unplanned power outages moving into the weekend due to increased demand for electricity as temperatures continue to drop.

 

By 11am on Friday, City Power technicians were already attending to close to 300 unplanned outages. The power utility has appealed to residents to use power sparingly.

” Our system is under pressure due to the cold front. Residents are also urged to report illegal connections which exacerbate this problem of infrastructure failure and unplanned outages. Continue to log the calls and we are not load-shedding. Any outages that are happening please log a call so that we can send technicians,” says City Power spokesperson, Isaac Mangena.

 

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