The Ministry of Education on Monday commissioned its first Mobile Psychosocial Unit. The unit is expected to be used as an outreach for children in particular, in areas around the country that are often unserved in relation to social factors that affect individual thoughts and behaviours. The cost of the project is $16.3M.
The host of the commissioning ceremony was Vikram Mohabir and speakers included Chief Schools Welfare Officer, Glenna B. Vyphius, Deputy Chief Education Officer Ingrid Trotman and the Minister of Education Dr. Nicolette Henry.
In past years, Guyana has experienced several issues in relation to persons that were not socially and psychologically fit. However, the Ministry of Education and Schools’ Welfare Division are hoping to combat the issue from an early stage by providing mobile counselling to schools and children in areas that may be lacking same.
The unit is expected to start functioning by the end of this month and target nursery, primary and secondary schools equipped with 10 counsellors.
According to Chief Schools’ Welfare Officer Gillian Vyphuis, they will be collaborating with other ministries, as the task of providing psychosocial support will need joint efforts. She disclosed that they will be asking welfare officers in the different regions what are some of the areas that are most at risk and they will visit those areas.
The welfare officer also added that the team will be having one-on-ones with community schools to find out what are some issues and concerns being encountered and try to
provide the necessary assistance.
The mobile psychosocial unit, even though started with only one vehicle, is expected to extend across the length and breadth of Guyana, but will be starting by focusing on Regions 3 and 4 along with the mining town of Linden within the normal school hours.
Vyphuis posited that the commissioning of the unit stands to show that the Ministry of Education ‘is making strides in the psychosocial development of Guyana’s learners” and to “recognize the need of counsellors in many schools and communities to provide support, guidance and encouragement to students, teachers and parents.”
She expressed the firm view that the mobile unit will without any doubt make counsellors more accessible to schools and communities to bring about positive behavioural changes and ultimately better homes, schools, communities, and by extension, a better life to the citizens of Guyana.
In conclusion, she thanked Minister Henry for being the architect and for taking the initiative to enhance the quality of service offered by the schools’ welfare division.
Similar sentiments were shared by the Deputy Chief Education Officer, Ingrid Trotman, who told those present that the students’ social and emotional needs cannot be overlooked as “the well-being and welfare of our learners is crucial to their success.”
She further stated that it is for the previously mentioned purpose that the Ministry of Education is commissioning the mobile psychosocial unit. She postulated that the mobile unit will provide the psychosocial interventions needed for the well-being of the students so that they can be afforded every opportunity of success.
The closing speech was delivered by Minister Henry, who stressed on the importance of the unit and the fact that the public education system is where most of Guyana’s vulnerable and disadvantaged children are attending and thus it is important that they are provided with the necessary support.
She highlighted that the key to the development of the mobilized counselling system is creating partnerships with the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Social Protection along with other stakeholders.
Minister Henry also supported the fact that “school psychosocial support services are intended to provide a safe learning environment for children” enabling them to attain age-appropriate, development tasks and to understand what their specific needs are.
She highlighted that there are two main reasons that the unit is needed, the first being that “our school children have a right to be heard in matters that affect their life experiences, as many times we have our children with a lot of needs that are not met and a lot of issues that are not addressed because of lacking capacity and/or resources”.
The second reason, the Minister explained, was that “no child remains a problem child neither does any child remain untroubled all their lives, so at some point that child may need assistance and it must be readily available”.
She closed by expressing her hope of being able to acquire more of such units, and that the welfare division along with the ministry of education “will be able to go to where our children are and provide the needed services”.