Francis Tome: Absence of guiding and counseling in schools portends disaster

The public relies entirely on teachers and educational institutions to provide the basis for a fully functional society. Schools have therefore to constantly grapple with providing for a diversity of cultures and learning styles. The physical, social and emotional needs of students have to be effectively addressed. These accelerating social and cultural dynamics within the educational system continue to have a huge impact on the working lives of teachers. Amid all these changes, the parents` “magic touch” on the lives of their children has increasingly become a missing link. Once parents literally damp their children in school; they heave a sigh of relief and from there on they become absentee parents.

Even after schools close for the vacations, parents will hastily arrange for their children to be enrolled in various private centers offering holiday tuition thus limiting the chance of spending quality time with their children. They mistakenly think that more classroom instruction would some how make up for their absence. This behavior is observed in both boarding and day schools. In day schools for instance, there is not much time for the children after the parent(s) arrive home from work. They are tired, and therefore the homework and other concerns of the child are often neglected or done in haste.

This is trend is obviously doing a great disservice to our youth. Given that they will be the future of this nation, many of them will be ill prepared for the real world of work, bills, and household duties and responsibilities because of a poor education and poor role models. What parents and teachers fail to understand is that classroom instruction is just but a piece of a jig saw puzzle in the provision of a holistic education.

As for teachers, very few of them have received essential skills in guiding and counseling. A look at the education courses offered in the leading public universities and primary teacher colleges reveal that the graduates in education do not take guiding and counseling as a core course. This means that when they are absorbed as teachers in schools, the child is no doubt expected to struggle alone to find a footing amid the numerous vulnerabilities. Indiscipline and the resultant underperformance in examinations cannot be avoided in such an environment.

Cognizant of this challenge the government must quickly come up with a tailored programme that will see to it that all teachers are trained in guiding and counseling so that they can in turn reverse this trend and encourage parental involvement. This will be the first step towards creating a more positive attitude towards teaching and learning. In so doing, teachers, parents and students will ultimately be helped in achieving their goals of a top quality education without unnecessary distractions such as excessive indiscipline. Some diligent teachers are already going back to universities and other colleges to horn their skills, but most of them are struggling with families and high costs of living and cannot therefore afford this essential course.

Suffice it to say that no amount of policy reforms in education will effectively work without first addressing the component of guiding and counseling in schools. The Government should therefore commit itself to putting proper money and time into training the existing teaching workforce in both primary and secondary schools in guiding and counseling. It should partner with universities and primary teacher colleges to offer this course through school based programmes that can be offered in selected centers countrywide.

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