IN secondary school, many of us made/are still making the fondest of memories. It is in these adolescent, hormone-filled years when we are learning and grasping certain concepts about life that never made sense to us as children. During these years, teenagers are still quite impressionable and as such, they still need guidance. We may finally understand our sexuality and sexual orientation, we may understand the concept of friendship and we may even have our first heartbreak in these years. We are finally seeing the tip of the iceberg of this thing that they call “life.” School plays an integral role in child-rearing and yes, let’s not forget that teenagers (under 18) are still children. We spend the majority of our teenage days in school and as such, it only makes sense that our children have resources and equipment readily available to help them excel in every way possible.
Yes, certain resources are available already. Students may have libraries of books, teachers for every subject area and even computer labs to help with SBAs. These and many more might be available for students to use, but if these students are not mentally ready to learn because of underlying factors, those said resources will be of no help. These students need professional workers and resources to help them. A pamphlet or poster on mental health won’t cut it. We need counsellors in every single school in Guyana. “We already have enough social workers” is a phrase I am frequently hearing from some Guyanese. It’s embarrassing. This belligerent perspective on mental health clearly needs to stop.
I am pleading with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Protection to consider this recommendation. Allowing teachers with a Social Work degree to teach at a school simply is not a solution. We need specialised and trained social workers or psychologists who may have experiences and/or formal training with adolescent development. I acknowledge the fact that there are welfare officers attached to every region, but a majority of the cases that are processed by these officers are post-conflict. As they say, prevention is better than cure and yes, we may not be able to prevent every single issue that happens to or because of a child. Nonetheless, if we help one child per school with any issue that they may be faced with, that will still be a win for our society.
These school counsellors will be able to observe and interact with the students on a day-to-day basis and their offices will be open to every student to enter. These counsellors will be able to provide necessary guidance to students; academic, mental health and otherwise. I can’t stress enough how I alongside many other high school friends and colleagues wished we had someone older to talk to when we felt down or unsure. Some teachers helped, but they still lacked that professional training as a counsellor. As such, their advice came from instinct and experiences rather than professionality and facts. We should not allow our children to slip through the cracks because of this. Schools are one of the most important social institutions of society and our children are the future of this country. It’s about time we invest further in both, Guyana.