JIS News

As preparations for the new school year shift into high gear, students are being reminded that they have a responsibility to make the best of the opportunity to do well in school.
This message comes from Acting Assistant Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education with responsibility for Guidance and Counselling, Antoinette Brooks, speaking with JIS News, recently.
She says students have a duty to attend classes, and to ensure that their homework is always done. She advises them to prepare for class, by reading ahead and not waiting until the teacher tells them to do so.
“We need children to be practising what it is that they learnt in class for the day. So, we want them to be fully engaged in the whole learning process. They have a responsibility, and we ask them to do their best. If they feel as if they are challenged, there is always somebody there; talk with your Guidance Counsellors, talk with your peer tutor, talk with your teacher and we will see how best we can help you,” she urges.
Miss Brooks also encourages students to be on their best behaviour while at school.
“Like at home, where there are rules, there are rules in school and we expect them (students) to abide by these rules.”
She notes however that, if at any time, a child feels that his or her rights are being breached, there are ways to deal with it.
“We encourage them (students) to talk with their teachers, their guidance counsellors, or their principals, and if they are afraid and they go home and tell their parents, we encourage parents to come in and sit down and talk with our administrators, because I am sure there is always a way that we can work it out,” Miss Brooks states.
In terms of back to school preparations, she suggests that parents help their children through the process, by talking with them and preparing them for the changes to come.
“They (parents) will ensure that they (children) have all the material required for school; talk with them about behaviour…about language; they’ll help them to understand how to talk with teachers and how to talk with their peers,” she says.
She also urges parents to ensure that children get checkups in preparation for school.
“We do know that there are some parents who might not have done that, and I’m going to ask the parents who didn’t do that to try to make an appointment at the medical centre and get your child a proper check up, so you won’t find them having to stop from school,” she suggested.
Miss Brooks also points to nutrition as an important aspect of preparing for school.
“We want to ensure that the children are eating well. You know that we have to be careful of the type of foods that they eat, because some will cause them to be overly active, or sleepy and lethargic and not be able to perform the way they ought to perform, and we want our parents to be knowledgeable about this, as well,” she notes.
Stressing the importance of dialogue with school administrators, Miss Brooks reminds parents that guidance counsellors, teachers and principals are “there for them,” and that they should not be afraid to talk to school personnel about the challenges they may be facing, irrespective of what it is.
“It means that we are asking that children not be kept at home because parents feel that they cannot send them out. We want to encourage parents to go to the school, talk with the counsellors, talk with the principals, talk with the teachers, and see how together we can work for the benefit of the child’s education,” she emphasized.
Parents are also being asked to assist their children with preparing study timetables, in order to manage their time at home, thereby ensuring success.
As orientation sessions wind down, students who have not yet done so are being asked to attend the sessions that remain, as this is also a vital aspect of preparing for the new school year, especially for those making transitions from one academic level to the next.
Miss Brooks notes that the transition from early childhood institutions to primary schools, and from primary to the secondary stage, can be very traumatic, if it is not properly managed by parents, children and teachers.
“This is why orientation is an excellent period, and children ought not to be missing out on orientation, because it is a critical point at which they can discuss what is expected of them and they can ask questions, and they can become familiar with their new surroundings,” she explains.
She notes that guidance counsellors and education officers are integrally involved in the students’ orientation process, and that they help parents better understand what is required beyond the paying of the requisite auxiliary fees, such as getting the students ready with uniforms and anything else needed to prepare them for school.
The Guidance and Counselling Unit is responsible for the development and implementation of programmes in schools geared to helping students to develop the requisite behaviours, that will enable them to lead a fulfilling life, Miss Brooks tells JIS News.
“Within schools, we focus on the overall development of children, hence there is the academic side and the affective side. In the affective (side), we look at the social, emotional health and wellness of children,” she explained.
She noted that programmes are developed and are implemented through guidance counsellors in the schools, as well as Health and Family Life Education teachers, who are monitored by regional Guidance and Counselling Education Officers and regional Health Promotion Education Officers.
Guidance counselling is mandatory in all public schools, starting at the primary level up to the secondary level. Miss Brooks notes that, more recently, the Ministry has been putting counsellors at the basic school level, as well.
She clarifies, though, that not all primary schools now have a guidance counsellor, and explains that the problem is that there are some very small schools where the counsellors/students ratio would not be applicable.
“However, we are looking at the situation, and we are seeing how best these situations can be addressed in the near future,” Miss Brooks asserts.

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