Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, is suggesting that time be taken by school administrators at various intervals to assess the mental health and needs of students entering the institution.
“Should we not take the first term of school for entering students, transfer students and suspend the classes and just make sure that we use that period for diagnosis and for coming to terms with emotional intelligence, with physical incapacities, with educational deficiencies…so that we know the product that we have to deal with at school,” he said, adding that this may also be undertaken during the summer before they enter school.
He was speaking at a Choose Life International breakfast meeting at the Courtleigh Hotel and Suites in Kingston on March 1. The meeting consisted of school administrators, principals and guidance counsellors.
The Education Minister noted that contact should also be made with the parent or guardian to determine the needs of the child and the family on a whole.
“We try to link with the parent/s…to know if there is a place to do homework, indeed a place to sleep, the likelihood of whether the child is going to have food, how far he or she is coming from, can they read and at what level, all of these things that we used to take for granted,” he said.
He underscored that the continued professional development of teachers, especially guidance counsellors, in assessing and identifying the issues are critical in going forward.
“We have to increase the number of, the training of and the regard for the guidance counsellors in schools, otherwise, all the other things that we are seeking to do may be overtaken by that deficit,” he said.
He noted that the National Parenting Policy will also be used as a guide to foster better parenting and better families across the island.
“The sooner we identify the challenges, the great talents of our children, the easier it is to deal with them properly to rectify them where possible to channel them where necessary and that is why we must do it right the first time,” he said.
Choose Life International is offering services to conduct an emotional assessment of the students who will be starting Grade 7 in September of each academic year. The proposal is that this assessment be included as part of the orientation exercises for those prospective students.
President and Founder, Choose Life International, Donovan Thomas said the assessment will assist principals and staff to understand the specific needs of students and serve as a guide in providing appropriate interventions and empowerment.
Attesting to the programme, Acting Principal, Ardenne High School, Rev. Claude Ellis said it allows the administrators and guidance counsellors to determine the emotional state of the student so that the appropriate measures may be taken to deal with the problems. The assessment is being used at Ardenne High School.
Choose Life International is a member of the International Association for Suicide Prevention.
Persons may contact Choose Life International at (876) 920-2469 or visit 35 Hope Road, Kingston 10.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter