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Students suffered mental health during lockdown, survey reveals


A survey on how Covid-19 impacted on the education and learning of young people in higher education has revealed that a majority of them suffered from mental health and also that others had difficulties communicating with their institutions while at home. 

The survey titled, Social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth in the Post School Education and Training (PSET) Sector in South Africa was released by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology on Monday. 

The survey looked at 13 119 students from universities, Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, community colleges and private higher education institutions and was done by Higher Health and the Human Sciences Research Council. Higher Health is a health, wellness and development agency of the department of higher education, science and innovation. 

According to the survey, over 65% of students experienced mild to severe psychological distress. 

“A higher proportion of 18-19 year olds reported severe psychological distress (37.5%) than 25-29 year olds (28.7%) and 30-35 year olds (29.9%). Psychological distress was more prevalent among female than male students, and in those with high self-perceived risk of becoming infected with Covid-19,”  reads the survey. 

READ: Classroom Management: School Reopening Conversation Shines A Light On Student Mental Health

The target for the survey was young people between the ages of 18 to 35 and was done from June until September last year. 

The survey says that 40% of the students interviewed had moved back home during the lockdown, and half the students said they had difficulty communicating with their institutions during lockdown while at home. It was mostly TVET college students at 38% that experienced the most difficulty. 

“Two thirds of students (66.2%) from TVET colleges found it difficult to communicate with their institutions, followed by those in university of technology with 63.7%. Most private college students found it easy to communicate with their colleges,”  reads the survey. 

Fifty seven percent of the  students also said the “main challenges” that they experienced during lockdown were loss of study time, 55.8% said it was not having money for personal items for studying while 42.2% said it was the loss of social contact and 40.1% said it was not having money for food. 

Only 3.5% of the students said they did not have access to the internet for their studies while on lockdown, while 42.7% said they had access through the data bundles provided by their institutions and 29.2% relied on prepaid data bundles. 

“Students reported if their institution provided virtual learning. Over 90% of students at private colleges and 80% of university students reported that their institutions provided virtual learning. Significantly fewer (38.1%) TVET students indicated that their institution provided the capacity to conduct virtual learning. Overall 66% rated their institution’s e-learning portal during lockdown as good or excellent, and 23.4% thought their institution’s e-learning portal was of poor quality.” 

Speaking on the release of the results of the survey, Nzimande said the survey has provided crucial data and learnings that would help the sector when it’s hit with a similar public health emergency in future. 

“I am pleased to hear that students received support from their institutions in the areas of online learning, provision of data free bundles and data free access to the online learning platform and the university website.

I empathise with our students for the challenges that they faced during hard lockdown and the challenges that they continue to face,”  he said. 

READ: Thokozane Ngcongwane: My Roller-coaster Ride Of Mental Health

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