News from Rumbek
Training our peer counselors to provide crucial student support
At Loreto, our peer counselors provide crucial support – helping students to meet their needs for physical wellbeing, security, belonging, appreciation, and personal development.
This year, student peer counselors are being trained to help their fellow students to find solutions to their problems. As fellow students, these peer counselors are able to understand and relate to student issues because they have had similar experiences.
Through a process of one-on-one interaction, the student peer counselors can help students move past their difficulties. By actively listening to what their peers are saying, they are able to respond without judging them.
In our school environment, peer counselors are compassionate guides who fill in the gaps to help other students reach their goals. In South Sudan, particularly Rumbek, many girls going to school experience the challenges of forced marriage, home-based violence, limited family support, financial constraints, loss of relatives, cultural differences, and self-esteem issues.
This results in high levels of anxiety and trouble studying, which causes some learners to perform poorly. Peer counselors explore these issues and walk beside students as they face these challenges. This is essential in building learners’ happiness, confidence, and self-esteem, which are often all negatively impacted by high levels of stress.
In February 2019, a group of eight students attended a peer counseling workshop with Loreto’s school counselor, Ms. Salima Otieno. During the training, they learned that to be effective in counseling their peers, they should possess basic counseling skills like active listening (without being intrusive), empathy, sensitivity, confidentiality, and good communication.
The peer counselors also participated in discussions focused on several myths about counseling, the benefits of counseling, and the ethics of peer counseling.
According to one of the trainees, Teresa Awut in Senior 3W, “Counseling is a process where a counselor assists the client to come up with solutions to his/her problems. Counseling is not for weak people or those who can’t solve their problems as some people may believe. Everyone needs counseling for their personal growth. It helps someone become aware of their problems and get creative on how to solve it, thus growing into emotional fitness and health.”
The peer counselors were also instructed in the characteristics of counseling, necessary boundaries when helping others, when to pass a student on to a fellow peer counselor, and when to refer a student to a teacher or professional counselor.
In a society where stressors are recurrent, the group will be meeting regularly to discuss how to effectively help many girls who might be going through tough times.
They will also teach these skills to other students, so more learners will be able to get help.
Hellen Yom Anei, the head of the group, expressed her hopes for the group, “Students who have challenges will be able to access support from us. We will give guidelines and our peers will be creative to find solutions to their problems. Some of the problems we’ve also gone through and sharing those experiences with other students will bring emotional stability.
This will promote good health because students will be free from insomnia, fatigue, headaches and stomach upsets which are symptoms associated with stress. When counseling peers, we should be emotionally strong. We must exhibit patience and show interest in listening to them.”