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School Counsellors Needed Now

School-counsellorsYoung people in Antigua & Barbuda need to be nurtured, guided, and coached by exemplary leadership to become the next generation of parents, workers, leaders, and productive citizens. They desperately need support and opportunities during childhood/ adolescence, a period of rapid growth and change. Our children and adolescents face unique and diverse challenges, both personally and developmentally, that impact academic achievements, unlike years gone by.

The primary school years are times when children begin to develop their academic self-identity and their feelings of competence and confidence as young learners. It is a time when children acquire attitudes toward school, self, peers, social groups and family. We either destroy our children with the bad examples we set for them, or by the sins of our omissions.

The need is grave, I mean extremely urgent, for Antigua & Barbuda, as well as other Caribbean countries, to develop comprehensive school counseling programmes. This will provide education, prevention and intervention services. When integrated into all aspects of our children’s lives, such a programme is critical to removing barriers to learning and academic achievements.

Unlike primary school, secondary school is the final transition into adulthood and the world of work. As young people begin the process of leaving parents and exploring, defining and redefining their independence, they need adult supervision at a different level.  It is well documented that the teenage years are some of the most difficult in the lives of teenagers. It is a time when they are searching for meaning and purpose; a time when they have strong feelings to identify with and form bonds; a time of mixed feelings about their sexual identity and developmentally; it is their most rebellious period.


Gone are the days when a whole village raised and praised children. In those days, grandmothers were older, unlike now when the average grandparent is 40 some thing and just beginning to live their life. Added to this is the challenge that most parents are single mothers, so the older children, who most often are just 12-15, find themselves playing the role of parent instead of enjoying their teenage years. Our young people, like their counterparts around the world, should be living in an exciting time, with an increasingly diverse and mobile society, new technologies, and expanding opportunities, and striving after big dreams and higher ideals.

Antigua & Barbuda’s children and youth are worried about being raped, as young as age five. They worry about being shot, stabbed... or worse, being forced into illegal activities way beyond their years. If preventions and interventions do not become part of the lives of our youth, then they will end up behind bars. They will find hope in gangs and other antisocial behaviors. These activities are death-inviting at best, and go against their personal growth and healthy development.

The Ministry of Education needs to hire, train, and appoint, without delay, school counsellors, and must do so within the context of a comprehensive programme, not in a piecemeal way.  A school counsellor is a professional educator with a mental health perspective who understands and can respond to the issues and concerns faced by a diverse student body. School counsellors do not work in isolation; they are a part of a total transformational educational programme.

The school counsellors work with all stakeholders to deliver programmes and services to help students achieve success in school through classroom guidance, academic skills support, organisational, study and test-taking skills and post-secondary planning to address pain. They assist students with the application process to enter college, career planning, education in understanding self and others, coping strategies, peer relationships and effective social skills to prevent disaster. They employ communication, problem-solving, decision-making, conflict resolution, career awareness and the world of work to help build up a well-rounded person.


The school counsellors, along with children and youths, explore substance abuse education, goal setting, education in understanding of self, including strengths and weaknesses, individual and small-group counselling, individual/family/school crisis intervention, and peer facilitation to heal wounds.

While ministers of education over the years talk about the important strides they and the ministry have made in class size reduction, higher academic standards, accountability and teacher preparation, the school counsellor is woefully missing from this list of achievements. The important link in all these initiatives is to improve student learning, and provide counselling programmes in three domains - academic, career, and personal/social.

These services and programmes are designed to help students resolve emotional, violence prevention/safe schools and communities, social or behavioral problems. School counsellors stand between heaven and hell. They help young people develop a better sense of direction. Thus, effective counseling programmes are important to the school climate and a crucial element in improving student achievement.

Let our nation act now to engage our children and youth. Research is ripe that our children have many problems, issues, and concerns that they grapple with daily. They too need someone to express their deepest fears to in a non-judgmental environment. They too need to receive affirmation for their hopes and desires. They too need to see positive modelling. Their spirits need positive and uplifting inspiration that will give them a chance in life. It was once said by former First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt, “learn from the mistakes of others because you will not live long enough to make all the mistakes for yourself.”

Dr. Oswald R ThomasDr. Oswald R. Thomas Dr. Oswald R. Thomas is a Certified and Registered Clinical Hypnotherapist/Psychotherapist with the American Board of Hypnotherapy, the International Association of Counselors and Therapists, and the International Board of Medical and Dental Association. He is founder of the Thomas Center Human Development, Inc. and serves on Bronx Mental Health Committee, served on Community Board #5 in the Bronx, and the Bronx Neighborhood Planning Committee as Chair of the Youth Committee. With a Ph.D. in Psychology, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies in Human Services, Dr. Thomas is a counseling therapist/Behaviorist, and Professor at Metropolitan College of New York.  Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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7 Comments In This Article   

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Academic Advisors

#7 we also need » 2010-01-31 22:26

I am not an academic advisor, but i think that our schools need them to steer our people toward what is the path they should take to achieve their goals
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we also need

#6 Observant B » 2009-12-21 08:30

There are counselors in most schools and have been for many years. They were at one point only assigned to secondary schools. They are now being assigned to the larger primary schools at the moment. Of course it takes time to see the result of something like counselling. I am sure that sooner rather than later those results will be manifested. We also have such things as teen hot lines and mentoring programmes.
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Observant B

Reply to: DC

#5 Ris » 2009-12-14 02:28

Antigua has become quite the melting pot over the years and whether or not we appreciate the foreign influences on Antiguan culture they are contributing in a major way. Making Antigua a safer place for all youth regardless of their origin will bode well for the entire society.

Now is not the time to lay blame. It's time to take action.
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Ris

Could help, but would it be enough?

#4 DC » 2009-12-13 19:53

It's hard to see how comprehensive school counseling programmes could fail to help, but I'm not sure if they would be enough. Something has changed for the worse in Antigua, and I can't help thinking that outside influences are likely (at least in part) responsible. What outside influences might they be? Jamaican ghetto culture and American hip hop culture come to mind. This needs investigation. And perhaps some means might be found to insulate Antiguan kids from these foreign influences, if they are a problem (as I suspect they are).
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DC

Viable Plan of Action Necessary

#3 Ris » 2009-12-13 17:27

Dr. Thomas could not be more right in about the needs of Antigua's adolescents. Early intervention with steering children away from drug abuse and other deviant behaviors is often the most successful.

However, in these dire times one word will always reign supreme - finance. We are already hearing our ministers mention the large fiscal sacrifices we all must make to get Antigua back to where it needs to be financially. Finding the resources to successfully train and implement counseling programs for these youth will require dedication, seriously searching for and acquiring overseas grants that will demonstrate our nation's ability to produce positive changes.

I hope this article is the first step of many to enrich our communities in peril. There are organizations that provide grants as the government may not be able to financially sustain these ventures. I will begin to search for opportunities to make this happen and if anyone else finds something I would be happy to help in any way I can.
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Ris

#2 Alli » 2009-12-13 15:56

This is a very interesting article; I implore you to keep pushing for school counselors - this may force the ministry of social transformation to put more resources into training persons in this field. I must caution however that the Caribbean Culture brings it own share of challenges, as such when the feasibility study is being done, we must use our own ( like Dr. Newton and others) to **s the needs and the implementation strategy. This is the only way it could work.

Great article
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Alli

Pushing us to see the light!

#1 Dr. Isaac Newton » 2009-12-13 02:17

Doc,

Your themes the issues you are exploring are so salient to the growth and advancement of the Caribbean region. First, you call for us to balance punishment and crime with second chances opportunities for our children and youth,. Now you call for our educational system to incorporate school counselors to address the overall wellbeing our most precious resources--our nation's/region's children. Who can ask for more?

Thanks for pushing us to see the light!

Doc
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Dr. Isaac Newton

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Dr. Oswald R. Thomas

Dr. Oswald R. Thomas Dr. Oswald R. Thomas is a Certified and Registered Clinical Hypnotherapist / Psychotherapist with the American Board of Hypnotherapy, the International Association of Counselors and Therapists, and the International Board of Medical and Dental Association. He is founder of the Thomas Center Human Development, Inc. and serves on Bronx Mental Health Committee, served on Community Board #5 in the Bronx, and the Bronx Neighborhood Planning Committee as Chair of the Youth Committee. With a Ph.D. in Psychology, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies in Human Services, Dr. Thomas is a counseling therapist/Behaviorist, and Professor at Metropolitan College of New York.

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