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Children's Mental Health Week

Mahaneng Honey Phali is a passionate coding and yoga teacher. Earlier this year she led the first ever Breteau Foundation holiday programme in South Africa. Attended by 75 learners in a rural township in the North West Province, the children took part in classes of yoga and meditation, coding and health and hygiene. The holiday programme was a huge success, so much so it is now a daily after school programme for the same 75 students to continue learning yoga, meditation and coding.

As part of children’s mental health week, we asked her a few questions about the benefits of yoga and meditation.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING WITH CHILDREN?

2021 marks 7 years since I have been working with children in a supportive role. My experience in the education sector as a learner, student and coding and yoga teacher propelled me in looking for a means and approach of exposing children to a teaching and learning space that cares about their well-being and mental health.

WHY DID YOU WANT TO PARTNER WITH THE BRETEAU FOUNDATION?

The support the Breteau Foundation offers focuses on digital technology in disadvantaged communities. This aligned with my vision to empower children in my community because there aren’t any primary schools that focus on technology. I knew that my goals would be fulfilled when partnering with Breteau Foundation because of the amazing support they give as well as their prompt response. When you look at the number of children they have reached over the years, it shows they are fully invested in supporting children in digital technology. 

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT PARTNERING WITH THE BRETEAU FOUNDATION?

I love the resources they provide – tablets, headsets, data packages and software. They have addressed all the needs to provide a programme that is user friendly. The selected software is great for teachers and for children. Their effort and research to select the best resources, ensuring the software can track progress and learner performance, is notable. It provides incredible support to teachers and makes the programme extremely valuable to the students. 

HOW HAS YOGA, MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS HELPED STUDENTS TO COPE WITH THEIR MENTAL STRESS?

In a busy day of school, teachers focus on their work, the delivery and implementation of the curriculum. There is no space to check in on the mental health of children. They become overwhelmed with school work and their mental health issues. Research shows us that this can be eased by introducing and teaching them yoga and meditation in school.

Yoga, meditation and mindfulness helps children cope well with the mental stress they experience at in their lives at home and in school, socially and personally. Yoga is a practice of union in allowing an individual consciousness and universal consciousness to be one. It creates a perfect harmony between the mind and the soul. This assists them in uniting their thoughts and their body. They do breathing exercises in understanding how their body works and the resources their body has in dealing with self-conflicting emotions and ideas. It improves their concentration, reduces stress, promotes a healthy body, allows children to learn to respect themselves, others and the world, encouraging them to  accept differences and improve their self-confidence

HOW DOES MENTAL STRESS AFFECT STUDENTS IN POOR COMMUNITIES?

Children who live in poor communities have to deal with feelings of inadequacy that comes with poverty. The mental stress that they experience reduces their energy level, concentration, dependability and mental ability. It also makes them socially withdrawn, they experience long lasting sadness and irritability.

WHAT ARE THE LIFELONG EFFECTS OF TEACHING YOGA AND MINDFULNESS TO YOUNG PEOPLE?

Learning and practicing skills such as mindfulness and yoga provide students with tools they need to self-regulate and manage the increasing demands placed upon them in the classroom. It provides the opportunity to reduce problems in school like inattentiveness or acting out, while fostering skills for positive mental health.  It provides them with knowledge that assists them to understand how their body works and resources they can use in the body to resolve external and internal conflicts.

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