Managing student safety and mental health in South Africa

“1 in 4 varsity students have been diagnosed with depression.” Parent24, 10 October 2018

“Courts let Rhodes University lecturer off sexual harassment hook” SowetanLIVE, 22 January 2019

“Alarming that safety on campus for students remains elusive.” SowetanLIVE, 11 Feb 2019

“47 rapes on SA campuses last year; varsities to take action.”  Independent Online, 14 October 2018

 

These are just a few of the headlines that featured in the news in 2018 and early 2019. While registrations are almost nearing an end, the new academic year in 2019 has not been uneventful for tertiary institutions. Protests were rife across South African universities, colleges and TVET colleges – ranging from demonstrations about registration and fees to lack of adequate accommodation. Shockingly, one student died during this time, allegedly at the hand of campus security.  Currently, the safety of students in South Africa is questionable.

While our education sector has gone through many changes over the past two decades, challenges of managing security and mental health on campuses are on the increase. At the same time, institutions are increasingly pressurised to abide by legislation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 (OHS) and related legislation. Under this act, institutions must guarantee an environment that is safe and without risk to the health and safety of the higher institution community. The diverse challenges that come with health and safety, specifically mental health and violence, along with the increasing pressure to create a safe environment for students call for an urgent solution to manage these issues.

Advocate by Symplicity offers a solution that guides these processes, helping institutions manage events as they happen while tracking student behaviour data could help prevent possible incidents. The system allows relevant staff to track student complaints and their well-being. Through providing a safe and secure space where students can complain or report incidents, as well as a process to manage these complaints, Advocate promotes a general sense of safety on campus. Insights into student behaviour through data available also means relevant staff could intervene when a student is going through a tough time. And through early intervention, the system allows for action before an incident takes place – avoiding the emotional impact as well as the reputational and financial implications of incidents.

While this may sound great in principle, it is important to understand the actual implementation and integration of this system into an institution’s existing processes and systems. Our recent webinar hosted by Symplicity Advocate, demonstrates this system in action. You are welcome to watch this introduction to Symplicity Advocate here or book a customised demo with us – or simply reach out for more information.