Academic journal article Adolescence

A Preliminary Investigation of High-School Counseling Resources on the Cape Peninsula

Academic journal article Adolescence

A Preliminary Investigation of High-School Counseling Resources on the Cape Peninsula

Article excerpt

Educators and mental health care professionals have for several years advocated the idea that schools have an important role to play in the intellectual and emotional development of the child. Traditionally academic education has held prominence, but the importance of mental health education as an essential ingredient of the child's overall development has emerged. School guidance has therefore been acknowledged as a vital and integral part of the education system (Naude & Bodibe, 1990).

Although the National Education Policy Act of 1967 was a milestone for the educational system in South Africa in that it marked the beginning of the recognition of guidance in the schools (Haasbroek, Beukes, Carstens, & Bongers, 1978), guidance as a service has never gained prominence. Also, this service remained inequitable across the different education departments created during the apartheid era (e.g., House of Representatives - "colored" affairs; House of Assembly - "white" affairs; House of Delegates - "asian" affairs; and the Department of Education and Training - "black" affairs (Naude & Bodibe, 1990). Some form of guidance service was introduced into the white and the colored departments soon after 1967, but it was only in 1981 that guidance was included in the black education system (NEPI, 1992).

Although the importance of guidance has been recognized by education authorities, little has been done to take this beyond an academic concern and to increase the role guidance plays in the school system. This is highlighted by the investigation conducted by the Human Science Research Council (HSRC, 1981) and the National Education Policy Investigation (NEPI, 1992) in which it was revealed that school guidance in South Africa is very broad and may lead to generality and superficiality in its presentation. The HSRC investigation noted that periods allocated for guidance were not utilized optimally, the reasons for which included inadequately trained guidance teachers and negative attitudes of certain school principals, guidance teachers, and pupils (HSRC, 1981). The NEPI reported dissatisfaction with the lack of integration of guidance into the school curriculum. The scarce resources allocated to guidance and counseling and the low priority it is given by administrative staff, teachers, and students has resulted in guidance and/or counseling being almost nonexistent in most schools (NEPI, 1992).

An aspect that appears to have received little attention in South Africa is the role of the guidance teacher as a counselor and primary mental health care worker; i.e., someone who has the skills to effectively identify, assess, counsel, and/or refer children and adolescents in need of psychological or psychiatric interventions. Guidance teachers should be trained in counseling skills (Haasbroek, 1978) which will equip them for the promotion of mental health of pupils. In South Africa this does not appear to be the case. The general lack of effective facilities and teacher training was noted for guidance and counseling by both the HSRC (1981) investigation and by the more recent NEPI reports (1992). The identification of pupils with problems usually present difficulties due to inadequate training and allocation of time on the part of guidance teachers for individual interviewing of pupils (HSRC, 1981). Further, the extreme shortages of specialized personnel, materials, and facilities exist as a result of poor resource allocation to counselling (NEPI, 1992).

A recent survey conducted over a four-year period at the William Slater Adolescent Centre in Cape Town (Berard, Sennett, & Ahmed, unpublished data), showed that a significant proportion of adolescents were referred by guidance teachers and school clinics. High schools constituted the largest category of referrers of adolescents (33.2%).

The aim of the present study, therefore, was to determine the structure and function (using time as a measure) of the counseling facilities in schools on the Cape Peninsula. …

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