Olivier Habinshuti, a senior two student at GS Ruhango Catholique, Southern Province, found himself in a pickle when his academic performance started deteriorating last year.
Initially, according to Mark Ndagijimana who teaches English at the school, Habinshuti was a bright child whose performance was impressive.
The teacher started noticing the decline in his performance mid last year, and this is when he reached out to him to find out what was behind it.
“After a lengthy talk, I came to realise that he was unsettled because of the recurring conflicts between his parents. This is when I stepped in to offer the support needed in terms of guiding and counselling,” Ndagijimana he says.
After six months of counselling, and involving the parents, Ndagijimana says the boy started picking up and is slowly getting back on the right track.
According to Habinshuti, with all that he was going through, he didn’t know exactly what was happening to him. However, he is now thankful to the teacher who came to his aid at a time when things could’ve gotten out of hand.
Educators believe that the benefits of guiding and counselling can’t be overlooked, especially in schools where learners need the service, just like they need education.
Boniface Onyango, the head teacher at Riviera High School, says a well-guided and counselled student knows what to do in an appropriate manner, as compared to the one without guidance or any form of counselling.
To understand well what a counsellor means, Onyango says, this is someone who can be termed as a friend, a guide, parent, teacher and a helper.
From this, he says, it’s clear that a counsellor should not at any point be referred to as a ‘disciplinarian’.
Also, Onyango points out, counsellors should spend as much time with students as possible.
He explains that this is because counsellors guide students and in doing so, the time spent with them becomes more necessary than anything else.
Another important element, the head teacher adds, is that for counselling and guiding to ensue effectively, there must be understanding and trust, among other things.
Teachers weigh in on the importance of counselling
Diana Nawatti, a counsellor and head teacher at Mother Mary Complex School, is of the view that counselling should be there to bridge the gap between students and the people meant to assist them.
When counselling them, she says, students realise that there is someone they can count on, which encourages openness.
She says that to be able to guide and counsel any student is a sign of concern.
“Whenever students are guided, they feel cared for, thus, they can open up about challenges and issues affecting them; which will become easy for the counsellor to provide the necessary help needed at the right time,” she says.
Nawatti believes that when this happens, it impacts students positively.
She gives an example of the many cases of depression affecting young people, due to different things going on in their lives.
Sadly, she says, these young people don’t understand where the depression is coming from, but when they are counselled, they get to understand, therefore, helping them go through everything becomes easier.
“When this is done, they understand their strength and weakness, thus learn how to overcome everything,” she adds.
John Nzayisenga, Director of Kigali Harvest School, Kigali, says when students are well guided, their level of performance also improves.
In addition to this, he says, anybody fairly knowledgeable about young people, and not necessarily a well-trained person, can act as a counsellor, especially those who are close to them.
“However, I believe that having a skilled and experienced counsellor will work wonders for any child as far as their wellbeing is concerned,” Nzayisenga says.
What to put into consideration
Onyango says that when you look at education, people often pay more attention to the formal side than the social aspect, yet the latter is practically one’s life.
For instance, when one is at home there is a course for that, the same applies to when they are in church and school, and so education is everywhere.
To understand this better, he points out that education should be defined as socialising with young people to help them learn how to do things, and, support them to think about what they learn. Therefore, counselling becomes a fundamental aspect.
A psychologist, Omer Mayobere, working with Caring for Impact Ministries (CIM), notes that student counselling can help some of them cope with issues like depression.
He explains that the counsellor can teach students necessary aids to cope with depression and anxiety-related issues in a better way.
Furthermore, Omer notes that when this is done, it’s important to include parents and students for effective results.
He says it’s also important to encourage students to participate in extracurricular activities, adding that they can only make it if they are well-guided.
The psychologist says in the case of students with learning disabilities, apart from the additional support they need, a counsellor should be available.
When is the right time for counselling?
Onyango believes that counselling of students should start as early as possible. This, he says, begins by counselling the parents.
This is where the therapy of any child begins, because in the long run, the aim is to raise children who are mentally and physically strong.
“Parents should keep in mind that counselling done at school is the continuation of what was established in the child earlier,” he says.
Nawatti thinks that counselling should start at any age, however, when there is behaviour, attitude or academic performance change, counselling is mandatory.Follow Lydia_AtienoM