20 October 2022 | Story Gerda-Marié van Rooyen
Gali Mokgosi
Gali Mokgosi uses her passion for students and films to promote conversations about mental health and how campus life inside and outside the classroom – including residence life – affects and is affected by the physical, mental, and spiritual health of its students.

Using her experience in theatre and her passion for students, Gali Mokgosi, Residence Head of House Madelief, helps students explore and implement skills to cope with the demands of university life. A Health and Wellness coordinator for residence life, she helps improve their lives by teaching them the value of sufficient sleep, nutrition, exercise, recreation, positive coping strategies, healthy social and sexual relationships, and a sense of belonging within residences.

Mentoring and supporting university students

As a former English lecturer for first-year students, this go-getter saw an urgency to mentor and support university students. In 2016, she landed a job as residence head and resigned from lecturing to focus on theatre and residence affairs. Soon after her appointment, she and her colleague, Nthabiseng Mokhethi, Residence Head of House Ardour, were asked to coordinate the Residence Life Health and Wellness portfolio at a time when there were many suicide attempts and mental health issues, and drug and alcohol abuse plagued residences.

“Our main responsibility as Health and Wellness coordinators is to support Residence Committee Health and Wellness representatives (RCHW) in their respective residences. We facilitate training for RCHW peers and help them to think broadly about how campus life inside and outside the classroom – including residence life – affects and is affected by the physical, mental, and spiritual health of its students.”

Using film to address topical issues

With an honours degree in Drama and Theatre Arts, this UFS alumna knew she had to adapt to virtual means for her portfolio to continue supporting students during COVID-19.

“There was a need for intervention, and I saw an opportunity to close this gap by helping students through their challenges using films. I wrote films that directly address the challenges students were/are facing. Being a residence head, content for my films is always under my nose, and the storyline is undeniably relevant to them.”

Mokgosi wrote and produced four films for the various student support offices, with the help of Shibashiba Moabelo, Institutional HIV/AIDS Programme Coordinator at Kovsie Health, and Pulane Malefane, Assistant Director: Residence Life. These films are, I am, Triggers, Versus me, and Monate jou lekker ding.

This scriptwriter says when students can identify themselves in a story, they tend to gravitate towards a solution as suggested by the story. Students across the University of the Free State’s (UFS) three campuses act in the films. After watching a film, students engage with each other and receive tools to explore the story and reflect on the outcomes as suggested by the film.

Proving her sensitivity for inclusiveness, she had an opportunity to be part of the art skills exchange programme in Deaf theatre at Gallaudet University, Washington, DC. She also presented a research paper in Athens, Greece.

Mokgosi is looking forward to experiment with Deaf films in 2023.

Asked how she looks after her mental health, she reveals: “I take care of my mental health through prayer and meditation. I believe the first place to prosper is through my spiritual life. God is my strength from day to day. He is my all in all. Without Him, I will fall.”

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