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Why We Need More Mental Health Counsellors in Our African Educational System?

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Counselling programs are the processes that prepare professionals who can help others discover and develop their life potential, with the ultimate goal of self-realisation and success.

In another context, it is an integral part of the school system that helps students realise their potential and focus on projects reinforcing their strengths.

This last concept underlies the effectiveness of education and counselling in achieving excellence in our African educational system. Teaching and counselling practices underrepresented our African education systems.

With the financial and economic problems that have engulfed the entire system, there will be little room for disseminating recommendations and advice.

From my experience, our educational orientation and system do not create an atmosphere conducive to learning and mental health consultations. Our best concept idea is African universities’ Bachelor of Education in Leadership and Counselling.

Our realities also raise questions about the suitability of courses with little or no job opportunities for course graduates. It’s easy to say that leadership and advice are not part of Africa’s educational values and culture.

In Africa, there is a fallacy that only doctors, lawyers and engineers can have successful careers and career opportunities for students are limited. This puts social pressure on us as students to make uninformed career choices. Also, the competition to get into these so-called successful colleges is tough, with a series of entrance examinations to be taken.

Every year more and more African students fall short of the high standards set by universities for subjects such as medicine, law, engineering and anatomy. The domino effect is when students are forced to make uncomfortable career choices to get into college at all costs.

After entry into college, the dilemma of making good grades begins. In the long run, guidance and counselling play a major role in determining students’ career choices in our African education systems but are yet not fully implemented.

Overcoming learning barriers

A comprehensive school counselling program and counsellor will provide all African students at any grade level with various prevention and intervention programs and models to overcome barriers to learning and improve their connection to our school and course work by ensuring that we learn in a safe, healthy and supportive environment.

The role of the counsellor in a student’s life is to identify and intervene early in our academic and personal/social needs, which is important in removing barriers to learning and promoting success in school.

An instance is the middle school level, also known as middle school, where students between 11 and 14 need more counsellors than ever. Because they are in a transitional stage from childhood to adolescence, learning sometimes is difficult due to early brain development.

Independent critical thinking skills

The program and a comprehensive school counsellor model will help us develop 21st-century skills such as independence, critical thinking, creativity and leadership skills. These programs can instil professional leadership skills such as teamwork, time management, communication, and cultural awareness.

Interestingly, professional school counsellors offer a wide range of services. They spend 85% of their time working directly with students, providing services that directly benefit students through academic advising, which schools can benefit from.

Orientation programs, career counselling, social counselling, counselling in reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention counselling, ongoing assessment/testing management, placement services and follow-up services are other services that can help African students’ thinking skills.

In addition, the knowledge, attitudes and skills acquired in academic, professional and personal/social development are the basis for future success.

Quick response to a mental health crisis

School counsellors will help provide short-term counselling and crisis intervention focused on mental health or situational issues such as bereavement or difficult transitions.

Also introduces school and community resources that address mental health issues (suicidal ideas, violence, abuse, anxiety and depression) to remove barriers to learning and help students return to the classroom.

In addition, educate teachers, administrators, families, and community stakeholders about African students’ mental health issues, including awareness of the role environmental factors play in causing mental health problems or exacerbate mental health problems and provide resources and information, and seek to update the school’s continuing knowledge of professionals about the social/emotional needs of students, including best practices for global mental health risk screening.

Implement career development programs

In recent years, many eligible African students living in Africa have been suspended and expelled from schools due to poor decision-making.

A counsellor-school partnership can help African schools create data analytic tools to understand unique issues better and implement professional development in our various schools where student interests are down.

School-community professionals can work with school counsellors to identify students struggling with transitioning from elementary school to middle school or high school to University. They developed new ways to screen students and provide social and academic support.

Therefore, it is understandable that African schools are underfunded and have few resources to hire designated school counsellors.

However, only a few schools in Africa have dedicated counsellors to help students make these informed decisions concerning their mental health and career choices.

African students do not have the opportunity to have a heart-to-heart conversation with their counsellors to determine their options.

They were filtered down to clues less important than scores to determine career choices. Hence, school administrators, government and non-governmental organisations can co-organise career seminars and workshops for students where professional counsellors can help them make informed decisions concerning these students.

Onah Caleb is a research assistant at Benue State University (Nigeria). He runs the blog KaylebsThought.


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