My focus for this assignment will be on the Peer Counselling that takes place in various high schools around Johannesburg. My decision to focus on this area was prompted by my role as a Grd 12 teacher, as well as being the mother of two teenage boys aged 14 and 19. I felt, that as a result, not only would I be able to interact with the learners involved in the process, but I had the experience of dealing with many of the issues they would be coming face to face with. I dealt with two groups: 1. The Peer Counselling group at a Catholic Boys’ school. 2. The Peer Counselling group that was in the process of being established at a local High School, a co-ed government school – the girls only group. Peer Counselling at schools Before I observed the group in action, I did some research on the role of the peer counsellor and discovered the following: ‘Prospective peer counsellors, usually senior learners at school or youth leaders from the community, volunteer to attend an intensive two-day training programme which equips them with the skills, ability and confidence to counsel and render support to their fellow peers, encouraging them to seek treatment for substance abuse and other problems they may be experiencing.’ SANCA (http://www.sancawc.co.za/master/article.php?id=35) ‘To most people, bottling up problems is far easier than talking about them. Most of the time it’s because we don’t want to seem weak to others or because it feels as if no one could possibly understand what we’re going through. This is usually reinforced when we do eventually open up to someone, a parent, teacher or friend, and our problems are brushed aside. But swallowing our problems won’t make them disappear, which is why Lifeline/Childline started a peer counselling programme where youth can speak to other trained youth who understand and are dealing with the same pressures and issue.’ Lifeline (http://www.bokabuddies.co.za/wordpress/archives/tag/peer-counselling) The group I observed, were not being trained according to a specific programme, but they were following a programme that had been devised by the supervising psychologist. I asked her where she had got her material from and her response was that she had used a recognised programme with the Boys only group, but had found that there were issues that it did not address in preparing the boys for the issues/ problems that they had to face in their specific environment. As a result, she had decided to formulate her own programme for the Girls only group.
Girls only School group This is a group of Grd 10 learners who have shown a desire to be part of the school community in a very special way. The group was made up of only girls: 3 Coloured, 3 Black and 1 Indian The school is located in a middle-class suburb that has a very high proportion of Indian / Muslim learners as there is a mosque in the area. The largest demographic is made up of Black learners, with White learners being in the minority.
When I questioned the girls about their motives, there was an overwhelming response that they wanted to help fellow learners not repeat the same mistakes year after year, and that they had been through various life issues themselves that they felt they could assist other learners in dealing with. Their main area of focus would be the Grd 8 to 10 learners, specifically, but they did say that they would open to senior learners coming to them with problems. They felt that at their school there were very specific problems, that they themselves had faced and felt that they could help other learners avoid the same pitfalls. On reflection: 1. I was concerned that the group was made up of only girls and that boys would be reluctant to confide in them. Their answer was that they perceived that boys would not go to other boys because of the ‘macho’ self-preservation image that was prevalent at their school. Girls were seen as being more nurturing and therefore used to dealing with...