Analysis

There Are Compelling Reasons To Replace School Chaplains With Professional Counsellors

The problems that face students and teachers now are more complex than they have been Social changes demand that we change too to deal with them effectively
09 Jul 2019 16:25
There Are Compelling Reasons To Replace School Chaplains With Professional Counsellors
Queen Victoria School in March this year. Photo: Ministry of Fisheries

Analysis:

The move to phase out chaplains in Government schools and replace them with professional counsellors has merit.

This is the final year for school chaplains. From next year, counsellors will be based in these schools.

Let’s recognise the wonderful service of these chaplains who are from the Methodist Church. It is also a good time to thank the church for its contribution to the spiritual welfare of the students.

It will be the end to an era. Many of our Government and community leaders went through these schools including former prime ministers such as Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka and Laisenia Qarase who both attended Queen Victoria School.

This writer also attended QVS and even worked as a house boy for the chaplain, the late Reverend Jone Lagi, for two years. It was my morning duty from 6am to 7am and my chores included cleaning the house, washing dishes and clothes

I also assisted in maintaining a garden. After completing my assigned tasks, there would be a packet of goodies waiting for me as his way of saying thank you.

Reverend Lagi was a compassionate talatala and was widely respected. He was one of the school’s icons because he was heavily involved in school activities.

I am sure that there are many school chaplains like Rev Lagi.

However, QVS and other schools over the years after Rev Lagi, have evolved, coming under intense pressure from the social revolution going through our society. QVS went through a turbulent period when it went close to anarchy.

The stakeholders realised that they could not carry on  with the old ways. They had to change. And change they did.

Stability and confidence returned after new measures were introduced. Absenteeism, bullying, smoking, drugs and anti-social behaviour surfaces every now and then.

It has been acknowledged for sometime that the only way to deal with the problems is to have professional counsellors in schools.

The complex challenges require more than religious counselling. They need clinical intervention from specialists who can diagnose what’s wrong and recommend treatment.

So qualified and professional  counsellors are needed to implement the new programme.

Mental health should be a big component in it. It covers a wide range of human behaviours that indicate that something is not normal. It can be detected early and appropriate remedy is applied. If it is not treated early it could escalate to something more serious, painful and costly.

In this respect, the pending change is inevitable if we are to keeping progressing.

On the other side of coin is the issue of religious freedom.

When I was at QVS most of us were Methodists. Even those who belonged to other minority churches toed the line.

Today the status quo has changed dramatically.  New Methodist did not exist then. Even the Pentecostal churches were not that big.

The proliferation of new Christian groups has changed the dynamics in schools.

Recently, at QVS, one group of students was going to Qoma island, off the Nukuvuto coast, Matavatucou, for its Sunday service. The students obviously had joined a new group.

Not long ago, at Ratu Kadavulevu School, not far from QVS, a row broke out over a controversial prayer group accused of being a cult.

The group  was set up outside of the school and at one time was receiving more than 60 students and some teachers.

If students are free to go to their respect churches for Sunday worship, there would be no need for a school chaplain. That would be in harmony with religious freedom.

The reaction from the Methodist Church indicates there is a mutual recognition that the reasons for change are compelling.

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