Leading in a Context of Anxiety

Broadcast date: 12 September 2020

Understanding and patience

Understanding and patience

Pandemics are often defined by fear and anxiety. They cause people to worry about their health and the health of their loved ones, about the impact on the economy, and about a future that has become impossible to predict.

When it comes to education, principals, teachers, parents and learners all experience their own unique set of constantly changing anxieties. Ayanda, a matric learner from KwaZulu-Natal, for example, is concerned that she and her classmates won’t be able to complete the academic year. “We did try to study on our own but that wasn’t enough,” she explains.

These anxieties can’t be ignored. In fact, schools across the country are finding that little is achieved if everyone’s individual fears aren’t addressed. This process takes understanding and patience.

The repercussions of chronic fear and anxiety are far reaching. “When people feel afraid they either choose to fight or flee from the threat,” says Dr Nako, a psychologist from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. “The fight always is not always physical. Sometimes people fight by being defiant, sarcastic, rude or verbally aggressive. On the other hand, the choice to flee or run away from the threat may present as absentmindedness, daydreaming or preoccupation with pleasant activities such as playing or surfing the internet.”

Read the blog about this topic here.

It’s important to remember, however, that this is a shared experience. “We’re in this together,” says Marylyn, a teacher from KwaZulu-Natal. Treating everyone’s circumstances and reactions with kindness and empathy is an important way to manage their fears, and to find common ground and a mutual resolution.

It’s also important to remember the power of communication, says Kgethi, a principal from Gauteng. “Be proactive in your communication,” she advises. “Teachers, learners and parents should all know what’s happening now and what’s happening next.”

Of course, schools that are able to might consider asking for external assistance. “In terms of teacher psychosocial support, we managed to ask a social worker in our community to talk to the teachers and support them regarding their fears about the disease,” explains Brendan, the principal of a school in Kokstad. 

The more schools open their lines of communication and the more they make the right kind of support available, the more likely it is that everyone’s fears will begin to be calmed.

A shared experience

A shared experience

Leading in a Context of Anxiety

Listen to Phepha uFunde episode two in full here:

Leading in Uncertainty - Covid-19 - Phepha uFunde

Advisory sites

Department of Basic Education

Psychological Society of South Africa
South African Depression and Anxiety Group
World Health Organization
South African Coronavirus Resource Portal

National Department of Health

Seed Education Trust