As thousands of primary and secondary school students get ready to go back to the classroom next month, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw said campus social services will be ramped up to attend to pupils’ mental health.
She said her ministry will be putting more guidance counsellors in schools, declaring that one of those workers in a school of 1 000 or more students was unacceptable, given the complex challenges students face.
Acknowledging that pupils were still coming to grips with a range of difficulties brought on or made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Education Minister said greater attention must be paid to the emotion and mental wellbeing of students.
“They are grappling with the issues of not being able to have some kind of access to Wi-Fi or parents being laid off from work and their having to cope with all of the changes and transformation of things that are happening. So we have a responsibility to them if we are going to save this generation,” said Bradshaw.
She made the comments during a ceremony to unveil a mural at The Lodge School.
Bradshaw said it was easy for adults to forget about the emotional needs of the children as they tried to cope with the changes themselves.
Declaring that the Ministry of Education would be giving greater attention to the emotional wellbeing of students in the coming school year, Bradshaw said a Mental Health and Wellness Committee has been established.
Approval for the composition and operation of this committee was sought from Cabinet over three months ago.
“We have set up the Mental Health and Wellness Committee within the Ministry to be able to bring together experts to look at some of the challenges that [students] are facing, because if children are hungry and added to that they are dealing with the issues of the uncertainty that is happening in the home environment, then they are not going to learn,” Bradshaw said.
Pointing out that the difficulties associated with examinations over the past year have been compounded by the pandemic, the Education Minister said there has been a noticeable increase in the number of students who were unable to cope and were therefore going to the student support department for assistance.
“As much as we are ramping up on the teaching end, the truth is that this area is a burning one for us and we have increased the number of social workers and there will be an increase in guidance counsellors for the start of the September term,” Bradshaw said.
“We have already put in place a number of safety officers across the schools as well, because it cannot be any longer that it is only the student support services team within the Ministry of Education that is able to respond to the challenges that the students are facing.”
Minister Bradshaw also said she believed the time had come for a Big Brother mentorship programme to be introduced to further provide students with assistance.
“We are happy for the money that you can give but many of our young people also want mentorship. They want somebody who is going to tell them where they are going right and somebody who will tell them they are going wrong,” she said. (MM)