Dealing with trauma

Cherie Abrahams, Claudia Roodt and Leanne Reid are working together to create trauma-informed schools. PHOTO: Racine Edwardes
Cherie Abrahams, Claudia Roodt and Leanne Reid are working together to create trauma-informed schools. PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

This year Learning in Reach aims to donate the funds raised from their Mandela Day efforts to aid formation of trauma-informed classrooms in Lavender Hill.

Learning in Reach, a non-profit organisation (NPO) that provides strong foundational education in under-resourced communities, has set their sight on creating school environments that deal with the underlying trauma that affects the learning abilities of young learners.

The work that will be carried out on Mandela Day, Thursday 18 July, is centred on the idea of creating calm in the classroom. The organisation will host workshops where volunteers can create sensory objects that will be used in classroom “calming corners”, at the schools that work with the NPO. The corner will be a space that is not used for punishment, but rather for the child to contain their emotions and return to a state of calm so that they can refocus on the lesson.

Claudia Roodt, clinical social worker, is collaborating with the NPO by providing the teachers with vital information, through a number of learning sessions, which allows them to work better with disruptive children.

According to Roodt, disruptive or unmotivated children are a product of trauma in any form.

She says trauma may present itself as abandonment, abuse, neglect and even the divorce of parents – all of which are common in Lavender Hill.

“If you look at Lavender Hill, and all the cultural and community issues they have, you see children that are on high alert all the time. You see behaviour that is survival behaviour, but not the trauma that has caused the behaviour,” she says, explaining the effects of trauma on children.

Trauma can be identified in the form of a child acting out, being noisy or disruptive in class and by seeking attention.

She explains that it is then the responsibility of the teacher and members of the community to provide the child with the basic need that they may be lacking at home, in order to correct the behaviour in the classroom and furthermore to help them become good members of society.

“There is a notion that the parents are the only ones being held responsible for the formation of the brain architecture of the child, but we really need to look at all the adults in the child’s life,” Roodt says.

Cherie Abrahams is a teacher and community worker who has been attending Roodt’s sessions. She applauded Roodt for her ability to work with the residents in Lavender Hill, speak to them in a way they truly understand and convey a message that is helping to heal the community.

“The question I was battling with was how to change Lavender Hill. I became a teacher and sat in a classroom of 30 and still felt that I wasn’t making an impact. The biggest surprise about the trauma training is that we can now understand ourselves and understand our reactions,” says Abrahams.

For those who are unable to donate their time, the NPO is also accepting donations which will go towards developing trauma-informed classrooms with informed teachers. The funds that are going to be raised from Mandela Day will be going towards continuing the NPO’s work with Roodt and offering an extra layer of support for teachers in the community.

V For more information visit learninginreach.org.za or call 076 401 8503.

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