With just over 500 secondary and primary schools in the country, only a few students are fortunate to have guidance counselors to tend to any emotional problems that they may face.
This leaves approximately 98% of students around Port Vila without access to guidance counselors.
However, according to the Inclusive Education Coordinator, Marie Jonah, this may not be a problem come 2019, as provisions for guidance counselors are already in the education policy and “they will be there to protect the children while in school’’.
Mrs. Jonah then mentioned that after the Ministry of Justice implemented the National Child Protection Policy, the Ministry of education came up with the Child Safeguarding Policy.
The policy has not been implemented due to lack of finance. This is the policy that will put guidance counselors in schools.
She continued to mention that the 2019 education budget has this plan in place but they are still waiting for the public service commission to have the positions of guidance counselors included in the public payroll system.
Despite the policy not being implemented yet, two public schools have gone ahead to employ guidance counselors as part of their staff as they have seen the importance of having them around.
Central School and Malapoa College principals both understand the pivotal role that they play.
Principal Simon Shem of Malapoa College, stated that “there is a major need for all schools to have guidance counselors in their 2019 staff as there are countless issues affecting the student’s performances’’.
He further mentioned it is hard to identify emotional issues just by looking at a student’s physical appearance and that a lot of kids come from broken homes or have experienced abuse.
They take this extra baggage to the classroom and this really affects their studies.
Central School Principal, Paul Alexander said that he had been pushing to have a guidance counselor for five years and now they finally have one he is very helpful to the students.
Mr. Alexander went on further to say that his school also has children from broken homes bringing extra pressure with them to the classroom.
He mentioned the recent incidents involving high school, students especially the recent suicide at Hog Harbor Secondary School, stating that if the late student had counselling, that may have prevented him from taking his own life. Apart from emotional issues, students facing trauma should also be counseled.
A mother from Futuna felt that having guidance counselors is a great idea as it lessens the worry and work load of the teachers who already have a lot to handle.
She continued to say that she feels more assured knowing that there is someone in the school system who is especially there for her kids to go to when something is bothering them, when she can’t be around.
If guidance counselors are included in the educational structure then teachers would need to be trained in accordance with the guidelines set by the Child Safeguarding policy and sign the code of conduct after their training is complete, says the Inclusive Education Coordinator.