EDITORIAL: Focus on vulnerable students

As schools get further underway given their recent reopening, we can only hope that the nation’s teachers at the primary and secondary levels will pay close attention to their students and give greater focus to the ones who may need some assistance, in one form or another.

If we keep in mind that each student counts and as the education officials keep reiterating, that no child should be left behind, then it is only fair that we focus attention on those who may be disadvantaged, in some way or another. We have seen it in our school system so many times, where teachers push those who are already making it to the top and somehow ignore those who seem to be not so academically inclined. Given that we are trying to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and a lengthy break from school, attention must be given to the students who may be struggling to review various educational concepts and catch up on their work.

Many students come from broken and dysfunctional homes and we all know that the family environment can have a tremendous impact on children and how they thrive in their critical years. We are not suggesting that teachers become counsellors. However, we must admit that teachers do need additional training, so that they can pick up on critical signals that indicate that a child is troubled, so that child can get help as early as possible. Sometimes, all it takes is for an adult to simply show interest in a child, for that child to feel like someone special and for that child to make an extra effort in the area of school work. On the other hand, some problems cannot be solved that easily and stronger intervention strategies are needed to get troubled students back on track.

For sure, we can make use of a number of the counselling agencies around, since we seem not to have an adequate supply of school psychologists on hand or the requisite guidance counsellors to assist students who have challenges that affect their mental and emotional well-being. Perhaps children who need such interventions should be placed into selected counselling sessions, where they will be able to explore the areas troubling them and adopt behaviour modification strategies, that will aid them in the future. This way, we can be sure that we are treating the causes and not just the symptoms.

There should also be a peer mentorship programme established for students at the secondary level. The peer mentoring relationship would indeed foster a network of support for needy students in our secondary schools. Trustworthy mentors would be matched with selected mentees, who will serve as peer support personnel for these students, working to ensure their grades improve and that they develop academic and social skills. Mentors could also identify trouble spots for mentees, whether these include issues such as peer pressure, issues with attendance and behaviour, and typical family problems. Mentoring programmes for youth will be especially useful for students who are suffering from a lack of social support, and may be susceptible to delinquency. Additionally, mentors may provide other forms of social support for the student, such as friendship, networking, and aiding the student’s adjustment to school life.

We truly have to look out for those students who need some intervention or assistance, because they are disadvantaged in some way. It cannot be business as usual, given the present environment in which we find ourselves.

Barbados Advocate

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