The Hardap Region has the highest number of suicides among learners, an official survey revealed.
According to the 2013 Global Student Health Survey, 19.4 per cent of learners have considered suicide during the past 12 months, 25.5 per cent have made a plan about how they would attempt suicide and 26 per cent have actually attempted suicide once, or more than once.
Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said research shows there is a strong relationship between suicide risk and bullying. Bullying is considered a strong contributing factor to suicidal ideation and attempted suicide.
“This leads me to believe that there could be a connection between the incidences of bullying and violence, which contributes to depression – and this is a great risk factor for suicide,” the education minister said.
“We need to do something to prevent these losses and create a safer environment for us all,” she said.
She said one of the biggest sources of violence in schools is bullying.
Hanse-Himarwa added that violence occurring in schools creates a hostile environment that disrupts teaching and learning through absenteeism, fear, intimidation not only for those that are directly involved, but also the bystanders to acts of violence.
Bullying is widespread in Namibian schools whereby some learners have lost their belongings, including money intended for school and hostel fees, to the bullies while others sustained injuries when unruly former and current senior pupils allegedly assaulted them.
It was against this background that the education ministry with support from the European Union and Unicef last Thursday launched the National Anti-Bullying Campaign, with the aim of raising awareness and harmonising efforts in the prevention and management of violence in school.
In 2011, the Urban Trust of Namibia conducted a four-site study on the impact of violence on learners’ access to education. The results indicate that 18 per cent of learners had been beaten by being kicked or punched, 17.3 per cent experienced being scared or threatened with harm, 11.6 per cent indicated they were forced to do something they felt was wrong and 22.6 per cent were insulted or intimidated.
According to the Global Student Health Survey conducted in 2013, 44.6 per cent of learners who participated in the study were bullied during the 30 days that the study was conducted.
In 2012, safety audits were conducted in Rehoboth, Oshikango and Okahandja Park and the results showed that many learners had experienced some form of violence at school.
Hanse-Himarwa urged learner representative councils to lead by example and avoid using their positions to make others feel uncomfortable or scared.
She also encouraged parents to become more involved in the lives of their children as statistics show that only 40.4 per cent of learners felt that their parents understood their problems or worries, while only 40 per cent of guardians checked learners’ homework.
Further, research has shown that violence in schools can also take many forms which include physical and emotional violence, such as corporal punishment, abuse of power, sexual violence and intimidation and bullying.
The ministry viewed the launch of the campaign as one of the important milestones in addressing violence in schools.