Analysis

Resolution To Keep Both School Chaplains And Professional Counsellors In Government Schools Positive

Ministry of Education holds successful meeting with churches’ representatives. Churches say they will pay chaplain’s salary instead of ministry
23 Jul 2019 13:15
Resolution To Keep Both School Chaplains And Professional Counsellors In Government Schools Positive
Ratu Kadavulevu School in Lodoni, Tailevu. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Analysis:

Good sense has prevailed.

The Ministry of Education has reached an agreement with the Christian churches on Government schools’ chaplains.

Churches’ representatives met with Minister Rosy Akbar yesterday and said they would pay for the chaplains’ salaries.

This means the chaplains will stay.

This was after the Methodist Church general secretary Reverend Ili Vunisuwai confirmed that the ministry had notified the church that chaplains would be phased out next year and replaced by professional counsellors.

The report in the Fiji Sun created a lot of public interest and attracted social media hype.

Many, including former students and families, who opposed the proposal, were used to seeing chaplains in these schools.

It would be the end of an era if they were to go. The ministry currently pays for their salary package including housing on the same terms as teachers get.

Government critics  had called for the retention of chaplains because they provided spiritual guidance and counselling to the students.

But the Government could not afford to keep both the chaplains and the professional counsellors.

The churches’ commitment to pay for the chaplains resolved the issue.

The move will be welcomed by many because it would strengthen the Government’s resolve to instill discipline in these schools and raise the academic standards.

Professional counsellors in schools have been long overdue. The Government has take a leaf out of the New Zealand Government’s playbook.

In its new National Budget, the NZ Government has set aside an unprecedented NZ$1.9 billion for mental health with special emphasis on putting professionals in schools.

It is in recognition of the importance of mental health in national development.

The unprecedented Budget allocation underscores the seriousness in which New Zealand views the declining mental health of its young people.

New Zealand has the highest death rate for teenagers and young people among 19 of the world’s developed, wealthy nations. It also ranks poorly in terms of adolescent suicide and pregnancies.

Poor mental health needs early intervention. If it remains untreated  it could lead to serious mental illness.

It is understood that the ministry is taking a holistic look at the mental health issue.

The presence of both the chaplain and the professional counsellor would strengthen their efforts in this area.

Ms Akbar said last night that they had a very successful meeting with the faith-based organisations. She did not elaborate.

Feedbackmaikab@fijisun.com.fj

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