To work on the prevention of mental health issues in young children it is important to raise awareness about the problem, and schools are one of the best places to start mental health awareness, says Thandazile Ndlovu. Ndlovu is a Jozi foundation phase teacher who is passionate about child mental health and working towards her qualifications in child psychology.
“I think mental health is seen as a ‘grown up problem’ and just another part of adulating,” says Ndlovu.
“Imagine a world where we learnt from a young age how to take care of our mental health, how to express ourselves and our feelings, and what to do when the negative feelings come. One of the biggest ways I try to prioritise is in my daily interactions with children, making them aware that their thoughts and feelings are valid and helping them verbalise them. I believe in discussing our reactions, good or bad, and that age-appropriate conversations on world events are a great tool for awareness.”
Make child mental health top priority
Ndlovu, who hails from Katlehong in Johannesburg, says she is passionate about creating a culture of awareness and good mental health practice in children.
“I am an advocate for equality and representation for all. And an avid reader, this has helped fuel my interest in creating a better reading culture in South Africa.”
She is also TeachersCan and United Nations Global Feminist Actions Group alumni, and heads the intern program at Pridwin Preparatory, which works on developing young teachers.
Finding balance between teaching and psychology
She tells Health For Mzansi that she always knew she wanted to be in educational psychology; that is why being in the classroom is helpful for her at the moment.
“Ever since I started my undergraduate degree at Wits, psychology had my heart. I also knew I wanted to be in educational psychology. However, anyone who is in the field will tell you it is a lot of hard work and costly. I had heard several teachers share that they felt sometimes the recommendations given by therapists aren’t practical in the context of the South African classroom.
Ndlovu says teaching has taught her that learning should not be limited to the classroom. “We all learn differently, and children are capable of more than we give them credit for.”
Ndlovu co-authors book about menstruation
From juggling the classroom and psychology studies, Ndlovu has added another title to her name after she recently co-authored a book that aims to take away the stigma and change the narrative when it comes to menstruation.
“Tidi Talks: Periods is a book written by me, Farah Fortune, and Dr Nokukhanya Khanyile. It is the first of a three-part series that acts as a guide for the conversation on menstruation,” she explains.
“We wanted the book to be representative of our worlds from the characters names to how they look, which Naledi Zondo – our illustrator – captured beautifully. We aim for this book to change the narrative that menstruation is something we only discuss when we must, with very little detail and hidden away from non-menstruators.”
“I hope the Tidi Talks series reaches all homes and inspires a generation of open-minded South Africans who feel seen and heard,” adds Ndlovu.
While she runs on minimal sleep, it is her passion for seeing children thrive that keeps her going.
“It’s hard to find the perfect balance and I don’t think I have yet, but I believe in making time for all the people and things I love. The reality is sometimes they overlap, and I bring my daughter to meetings, or I am replying to emails during dinner with friends.”
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