Education and Counseling for a Greater Nigeria (2)

Hello,

This is a follow-up to my previous article on Guidance and Counseling (G&C) in our educational landscape. If you remember, I shared my thoughts on G&C and outlined 3 things we need to do to improve our G&C units across the country.

As I highlighted in my previous article, G&C refers to services that promote the personal, social, educational, and professional development of students. You may be wondering, “What are these services?” & “How do you foster student development?” By the end of this article, you will fully understand the concept of G&C and appreciate the role it is meant to play within our educational framework.

To ensure the proper development of students, guidance counselors work with 4 categories of people within our educational system: students, teachers, parents, and school administration.

I will write about the services guidance counselors provide to these 4 groups and how they should work together to ensure the holistic development of our students.

Students

“School counselors are the first line of support for students. Students cannot be successful academically when they cannot cope with social and emotional problems. School counselors can help guide students on their journey through childhood and adolescence.” – richard wong

Guidance counselors are supposed to be role models within the school setting. They are expected to develop friendly relationships with students, listen to their challenges, and guide them. If they carry out their duties effectively, they will be able to help students develop coping, organization, and communication skills, as well as provide them with the necessary tools to achieve a sense of self-acceptance.

Guidance counselors play a vital role in two main areas of students’ lives: academics (including career guidance) and personal development.

1. Studies and career

This is an aspect of G&C that many of our schools offer in some way at the upper secondary level; however, there is much more we should be doing. In Nigeria, students as young as 13 have to decide which subjects they will take in upper secondary school and these decisions can have a lifelong impact on them. Ideally, they should work with guidance counselors, who can advise them on subject options that best suit their personalities, academic strengths, and weaknesses. In fact, it is important to ensure that at each stage of transition in education, students employ the services of guidance counselors. In the United States and several Western European countries, visits to counselors are one of the most important activities students participate in when applying to colleges. This is something we must emulate as a nation.

2. Personal Development

This is an area where Guiding Counselors can make a big difference. The effect of proper G&C on students’ personal development cannot be overstated. Students spend most of their formative years within the school system, particularly those who attend boarding schools. In these stages, they go through puberty, peer pressure, and the effects of social media on their self-esteem and values. There are so many things that compete for our students’ time and attention. That’s why I think we need to strengthen our G&C framework.

Properly trained counselors would help students and their parents navigate these critical phases. For example, we are becoming more aware of mental illness and how it affects our society. About 17% (39,600,000) of young Nigerians suffer from poor mental health and illness. These are problems that we were unaware of some 20 years ago. As we confront them today, we need G&C units that work well within our educational framework.

Teachers and Parents

I grouped parents and teachers together because guidance counselors serve similar roles for both parties: teachers at school and parents at home.

As we stated earlier, when Guidance Counselors interact with students, they can look at their weaknesses, strengths, patterns, areas of concern, etc. With this knowledge, the Guidance Counselors can advise parents and teachers, respectively.

Parents, teachers, and guidance counselors play a critical role in the development of students. Therefore, we must ensure that they develop a relationship that allows the free and constant flow of information between them. They have to be honest with each other and the reason is simple: they all have different experiences and knowledge of students. When this is combined, it provides a depth of knowledge and experience that paints a complete picture of student needs and helps make informed decisions. As a result, they will be able to come up with ways to help students both individually and collectively. A relationship of this nature is bound to have its challenges, therefore it must be managed within a structured framework.

“School counselors can be a great resource to help teachers deal with difficult students. While school counselors don’t have magic wands, they are trained to address issues outside the realm of the classroom teacher.” – julie hartlin

School Management

The last category that G&C supports is school management. Its role is to ensure that the school administration optimizes its structure to best meet the needs of its students. Due to their extensive knowledge of students, they can advise schools on the best programs to implement, to help the proper development of their students.

When it comes to addressing the difficulties facing our educational system, we tend to underestimate the influence and importance of G&C. While it’s not a magic wand that can solve all challenges, it can be a useful tool, especially for soft problems. Take a look at the issues of drug abuse and bullying. A study conducted by the Office for National Statistics (NBS), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union (EU) showed that more than 14% of Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 64 years used drugs. This is almost three times the world average of 5.5%. Many young drug users attribute their drug use to a desire for confidence or as a method of coping with the difficulties they face.

Appropriate counselling, involving parents as well as teachers and counselors themselves, can expose underlying problems and provide alternative coping mechanisms tailored to the specific person. The same goes for bullying. A popular statement from high school bullies is: “I was bullied my junior year; now it’s my turn to bully young people.” However, counseling can help break this cycle. When students who are victims of bullying trust counselors, they expose the bully, therefore both the bully and the victim can receive counseling and rehabilitation. Herein lies the power of G&C.

The reality is that G&C, if implemented well, can transform the narrative of our country’s education system. As I said in my previous article, the federal government has shown its commitment to improving G&C in our education system. However, as education stakeholders, we must collectively ensure that G&C services are properly implemented at all levels. We must also ensure that Guidance Counselors are well trained to effectively manage all aspects of student development while holding them to the highest standards. Guidance counselors must be focused and committed to following the principles and ethics of the profession, while parents, teachers, and students must work to build trust in the system and do whatever it takes to ensure we use G&C services. effectively.

Until the next time we meet here, remember, we all have “A role to play.”

Fela Bank-Olemoh is Principal Special Assistant to the President for Educational Interventions.

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