Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Respect school counsellors

Published:Saturday | October 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Leila Vaughn, Guest Columnist

Each day, our news media report stories of child abuse and senseless killings. Our children are faced daily with horrific trauma in their homes and communities, while there is a segment of society who bilk elderly individuals out of their life savings or extort persons for rent of their own homes.

Such rampant evil reflects that a significant number of Jamaicans appear to have no values, no conscience, no desire to work for an honest day's wage, but prefer to join gangs, killing and harming innocent citizens.

Is this merely the result of the harsh social and economic conditions within our country? Is there no hope for change of this negativity that has made many Jamaicans in the diaspora unwilling to retire to the country they knew before they left? Whatever the source of this malaise, this social decline, there must be an answer. I would like to propose that the effective use of school counsellors is the start.

Three-pronged programme

School counsellors trained to provide a three-pronged programme (career guidance, academic, and personal counselling) from elementary schools to tertiary levels can help to develop more educated and humane citizens. Educated citizens are more than individuals who have passed nine to 10 CSEC courses, or have completed tertiary education. Educated persons exhibit critical-thinking skills and understand how to use problem-solving strategies to handle the many challenges that most of us face every day.

Students exposed to comprehensive guidance and counselling begin early to understand how to make wise choices (decision making), how to deal with volatile situations (anger management), how to handle relationships (conflict resolution) and to make informed career choices.

Such individuals are guided to shed egocentrism, to understand that they have a role in the building of our country through caring and support of each other for the collective good. When we gradually train our youngsters to adopt more positive thinking from the elementary school, we are sowing the seeds of productivity and reducing the negative thoughts and behaviours that translate into raping and abusing our women and children.

Negative behaviours are learned

We are not born with negative behaviours; they are learned through socialisation. If we agree that they are learned, school counsellors can help to unlearn them and replace them with positive behaviours and thoughts.

Counsellors can help students to develop self-esteem, self-determination, self-efficacy and effective decision-making skills. These traits are the foundation for success in life: caring, humane individuals who reflect on situations before the act. Such children will develop acceptable skills to face peer pressure, bullying and resilience to overcome the adversities that life throws at them.

The disturbed or disturbing child we miss in the public school later becomes the disturbed or disturbing adult. The child who does not learn how to handle conflicts, who does not master academic skills, who has no defined career path becomes the adult easily lured down the path of crime. The child who does not learn to respect all persons, regardless of gender, race, and sexual orientation, lives a life of hatred and negativity.

It is time for our leaders to recognise the important roles that school counsellors can play. It is time to recognise that school counsellors can be the change agents in students' lives, and then, maybe over time, this change can help to restore some level of humane and purposeful thinking and behaviours in our nation.

Dr Leila Vaughn is a national certified counsellor. Email feedback to and