Benjamin Shema Manzi, a senior four student at Mother Mary International School Complex, Kigali, says when he is worried or has a problem he doesn’t want to discuss with an adult, the first approach is a trusted friend.
Manzi says he does this because he believes that the friend will understand some things much better than his parents or teachers, especially if they are teen-related issues.
Educators believe that when it comes to young people, it is easier for them to talk about issues with someone of their age or a similar mind set.
In this case, they note that peer counselling becomes an effective method of therapy in schools as it helps learners take steps in addressing their problems.
In education, peer counselling is an approach that involves one-on-one interaction where students help each other, with the aim of exploring thoughts, feelings, and concerns to reach a clear understanding and make informed decisions.
Why it’s important
Diana Nawatti, the head teacher and counsellor at Mother Mary International School, says peer counselling has significant influence on identifying the needs of learners.
Studies have shown that students are likely to respond positively to messages from their peers, approach them often, and influence them more.
Nawatti says peer counselling or mentoring can be highly successful if educators choose certain topics or areas that students can use to advise others.
For instance, she mentions that topics such as conflict resolution, relationship building, confidence, and self-esteem; study skills, academic motivation and school attendance, among others, can work well with peer counselling.
“Through peer counselling, students are likely to be empowered, develop their potential, improve mental health and wellness, as well as be able to define and achieve academic and personal goals,” she says.
Studies reveal that peer counsellors are important in mentoring other students, sharing of information, leading in tasks, and supporting other students in school. Also, peer counsellors mentor other students through positive behaviour.
The ultimate aim of peer counselling is to enable other students make their own choices, reach their own decisions, and act upon them, Nawatti says.
What to put into consideration
Jacky Iribagiza, a counsellor and matron at Martyr Secondary School in Remera, says students need initial training on how to handle peer counselling.
She says that in most cases, schools normally use students holding leadership positions such as head boy/girl, class prefects, and game captains, among others, to help out in such areas.
Some of the trained aspects, she says, should include communication, listening skills, and ethics of peer counselling, issues of confidentiality, to name a few.
This, however, does not mean that such students are qualified to be counsellors and so educators should always follow up.
Further, she notes that academic stress, pressure for one to choose a career, peer pressure, relationship problems, body image issues, are also among the concerns that peer counselling can effectively have a positive impact on.
The counsellor goes on to add that when learners achieve their goals through peer counselling, it is one of the most rewarding experiences for a young adult.
Justine Gatera, an English teacher, says peer counselling helps show students the ways to provide support, encouragement, and resourceful information.
She notes that learners should put in mind that when providing such support to their colleagues, they should learn how to observe others.
Gatera explains that this is so because at the end of the day, peer counselling helps offer constructive communication while enhancing one’s own skills.Follow Lydia_AtienoM