The Student Support Services has proven to be a necessary lifeline to push wayward students back on track since its inception in 2009.
The Unit functions under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education and National Reconciliation with support from the Ministry of National Mobilization.
The Unit, which is headed by Jasmine Francois-Creese as co-ordinator, offers a range of services to students as well as parents and guardians, including behaviour modification and counselling. The Unit works closely with schools nationwide taking students based on referrals from school counsellors, and Creese noted, with concern, the increase in the number of primary school students who are going to the Unit for counselling.
She revealed this during an exclusive interview with SEARCHLIGHT.
“What I find troubling is that I’m getting, also more primary school referrals as a result of aggression. It’s a positive thing that the referrals are coming when they are at primary [school]. So not troubling that you’re getting the primary referrals because the earlier you can catch the behaviour, the better. But it’s the level of aggression that I’m sometimes seeing coming out at the primary level that I find troubling.”
In detailing the reasons why students find themselves at the Unit which is located in a suburb of Kingstown, Francois-Creese said aggression appears to be the leading cause of the need for intervention.
“A lot of it tends to be students who display high levels of aggression…. Some of these referrals may be children who are experiencing sexual abuse in some form. More so, I’ve seen most of the referrals tend to come from students who are showing serious aggression.”
She noted that in the past, the composition of students who were referred for counselling was mostly males, however within the last four to five years, more females are being referred to the Student Support Services Unit.
The Unit has tailored a broad and comprehensive programme for students in need of help and they also offer workshops for parents and guardians where they are taught budgeting tips, how to deal with domestic violence, child abuse, as well as safe use of technology.
Behaviour modification programmes are also part of the Unit’s mandate. Through the Kids In Need of Direction (KIND) programme offered to students at Grade Four level, Francios-Creese said they are working to correct behavioural issues while students are young.
“We will work with them those three years prior to moving to secondary school. We target students with behavioural problems. We will ask the school, let’s say for 10 students, we will ask them to send seven or eight with severe behavioural issues and two “model” students. So that happens during the August [term], it is a three week programme from 9:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m. They are provided with lunch and snacks, and we do a lot of fun activities. So the idea is yes, behaviour change, but behaviour change is fun.”
Francios-Creese said the Unit hosted a workshop for fathers in April and they are planning a follow-up workshop for June as they work towards increasing the participation of fathers in the behaviour change aspect of the programme.