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THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL COUNSELLOR AND HIS

FUNCTIONS WITHIN THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY.

By
Dr. Adeyemi Idowu

ABSTRACT
The purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of roles and functions in
counselling and in so doing the writer highlights the expected roles of
counsellors and their functions in Nigerian Schools.

GENERAL BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE OF STUDY


Guidance and Counselling, as an educational service and academic discipline, has
received much more public attention in Nigeria than any other field of education in the last one or
two decades. Speeches have been made by various public officers in education (both Federal ,
and State), educationists, and private individuals alike, and all have addressed the need to
revamp Nigeria's educational system with a more productive and functional type that incorporates
guidance and counselling. In a landmark address delivered at the 1976 launching ceremony of
the Counselling Association of Nigeria (CAN), Colonel (Dr.) Ahmadu All, then Federal
Commissioner of Education, stated, inter alia:
Guidance and counselling is an educational innovation that enjoys my full
support. Any educational system will be deficient without educational guidance.
Our students' need to be helped by personal counselling, career education and
vocational guidance to discover their talents, aptitudes and to make intelligent
career decisions, (pp. 1-2)
The Federal. Government of Nigeria also endorsed its total commitment and support to
the guidance and counselling movement when in the 1977 (revised in 1981) National Policy on
Education (NPE), it stated:
In view of the apparent ignorance of many young people about career prospects,
and in view of personality maladjustment among. school children, career officers
and counsellors will be appointed in post-primary institutions. . .
Guidance and Counselling will also feature in teacher education programmes:
(p.30)
Recently, in an opening address delivered at the National Workshop on Transition from
Junior to Senior Secondary School, held at e University of Ilorin on June 7th 1988, the
Honourable Minister of Education, Professor Jibril Aminu noted:
My ministry as well as all the State Ministries of Education are aware of the heavy
reliance placed on guidance and counselling for most aspects of the new 6-3-3-4
system to actually succeed... My Ministry therefore attaches great importance to
guidance and counselling and is determined to staff all secondary schools with
counsellors as soon as possible. For these reasons, my Ministry is actively
encouraging the production of counsellors in such a number that will meet the to
employ as many trained counsellors as could be found on the market now. I do
know that the economy is not buoyant but we are determined to employ and
place in schools as many counsellors as we can afford. (pp. 2 -8)
Much as government seems to have tried her best for counselling, many issues of a
professional nature are still being debated. For example, what is (or should be) the status of
counsellors in schools? What are the roles and functions of counsellors in school? Who is
qualified to practise counselling? Should practising counsellors be certified and licensed? What
body should be responsible for such certification and licensure? What status should be accorded
guidance and counselling in the National Policy on Education? Is the present status adequate?
These, in the opinion of this writer should be les that should be issues that should be seeking for
answers to match government's positive posture toward the 'discipline. The writer now attempts
to examine some of the issues. Firstly, the status of counsellors in schools — The National
Council on Education (NCE), being the highest policy making body on educational matters.
commissioned a task force in 1988 to study and report on some vital issues related to guidance
and counselling in Nigeria. After a series of meetings, the task force submitted its report to
NCE. On the status of counsellors in school, the task force recommend that counsellors should
be allowed to practise basis and that because of their impact status, counsellors should be
structured on a career ladder different from that of other school staff. This seems to be a major
policy decision for counsellors practice.
Secondly, should counsellors be certified and licensed for practice? It is widely
acknowledge that for a body of skilled people to be recognised, there is the need for such
individuals to be specially trained and certified. It is always assumed that the body would have an
ethical committee that plays a regulatory role for practitioners through licensure. The Counselling
Association of Nigeria (CAN) endorsed this requirement and at its 1988 Conference held in
Maiduguri set up a Certification and Licensure Board (CALB) to, among other functions,
recommend to the association policy guidelines for member certification and licensure. It is
expected that the committee will come up very shortly with a framework for implementation. Also,
as a way of controlling the quality of counsellors produced in our various higher institutions, the
National Universities Commission (NUC) recently sent to all such institutions, a list of courses that
serve as the basic minimum required for training. A critical look at the courses show that aspects
of career development, testing, behaviour modification, techniques of individual and group
counselling, principles of interpersonal relationship, practicum etc. were included. With this
development, it is easy to assume that any product of a recognised guidance and counselling
programme in Nigeria would have been exposed to these courses.
Thirdly, is .the status of guidance and counselling in the National Policy on Education
adequate? Again, CAN at its 1988 Maiduguri meeting set up a committee on implementation of
guidance and counselling in Nigeria. One of the functions of the committee was to look into the
policy and recommend amendments, if necessary. The committee has deliberated and its
proposals have been approved by the executive committee of CAN. In its report, the committee
observed that guidance and counselling deserves more than the little prominence given to it by
the present policy, all compressed into just six lines of a part of one section. It further observed
that the contributions of guidance and counselling services to educational development and to
other issues which have guidance and counselling implications are scattered all over the policy.
The committee identified seventeen (17) such areas contained in sections 1 to 10 .
It was the reasoning of the committee that if guidance and counselling covers the scope
of all individuals in the whole gamut of the educational system from pre-primary to the tertiary
levels both inside and outside the formal school setting, then it is a major component of education
deserving of a whole section of its own. The report of the committee has been approved by the
executive committee of CAN and has been forwarded to the Implementation Committee of the
National Policy on Education.
The other main issue is that' of the role and functions of the school guidance counsellor.
Specific attention has not been given to this vital area either by the Federal/State Ministries bf
Education through the NPE or by CAN as the professional body responsible for the organisation,
administration and implementation of guidance services fn Nigeria. There is no statement in the
National Policy on Education that addresses the role and functions of the school counsellor. The
Constitution of CAN, although it is undergoing revision, does not contain a statement of what the
expected roles and functions of counsellors are. The 1986 CAN Conference held at the Obafemi
Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, focussed on ethical and professional issues in counselling practice in
Nigeria and a substantive document of its resolutions is still being patiently awaited by
practitioners. It is, thus, the purpose of this paper to examine the concept of roles and functions in
counselling and then to highlight the expected roles of counsellors and their functions in Nigerian
schools.

THE CONCEPT OF ROLES AND FUNCTIONS IN COUNSELLING


The terms role and function have been used almost synonymously in the literature and in
most counselling discussions. It is only recently that writers are beginning to look at the terms
separately with a view to highlighting their specifications. Role, according to Shertzer and Stone
(1981), is viewed as a set of complementary expectations that result In behaviour. This view
looks rather loose usage that writers have suggested a more prescriptive and definitive
approach. From a perceptual approach to role definition, Shertzer and Stone (1980) stated that
to identify the role of school counsellors, an examination of their perceptions by those they serve
i.e. the students, teachers, principals and parents should be carried out. Using a specification
and expectation approach, Ipaye (1986), stated that a role is a part of function assumed by
someone, a specific set of responsibilities assumed by a professional worker, or s set of
perceived duties or such a professional in a given setting or organisation. Durojaiye (1976)
simply Refined a role as a part one plays in any given position, social situation or social
relationship. From these views, it seems that a role may be perceived as a concrete set of
expected behaviours.
What then is a function? Ipaye (1986) stated that a function refers to the activities
assigned to a role. According to Wrenn (1973), the distinction between a role and a function may
be conceptualised as one of purpose (role) and process (function) or as one of ends (role) and
means (functions). In this paper, therefore it is assummed that in carrying out a role, an individual
'is also carrying out a set of activities (functions).
Who should determine counsellors' roles and functions? If a role is a set of expected
behaviours, it is expected that, apart from counsellors themselves, employers or consumers
would have an input in defining counselling roles through their various expectations. Thus, would
expect that in Nigeria, employers of counsellors such as the Ministries of Education, Schools
Boards, and private school governing is may be involved in defining counsellors' roles because
they are responsible for hiring counsellors for specific set of well defined tasks. They should state
their (counsellors') expected roles very clearly as well as determine what their consumers (i.e.
students, teachers and parents) should expect from their employee - the counsellor. On the other
hand, if functions are seen as the activities in which professionals are engaged in performing
their roles, then judgement of the functions to be performed remains the prerogative of the
professionals as long as they fulfil appropriate culture and institution-bound expectations of the
role. This writer believes that the professional body of counsellors (e.g. CAN) should play a major
role in defining counsellor functioning because it ensure that counsellors are trained to exercise
judgement in determining how best to utilise their skills and qualifications as well as to conform to
the varying settings where their specific functions match the existing situations. It is expected
that the functions of counsellors would differ from setting to setting, i.e. the function of a
counsellor in a school would differ from that of an industrial counsellor; and that within a given
setting, e,g in the schools, individual counsellors may function differently according to the school's
characteristics. Thus, it is also expected that the approaches and procedures employed by
counsellors in the same setting may differ to suit individual client needs and the collective
institutional needs.
The questions of what should be counsellors' identities (their roles) and how they should
best do it (their functions) have continually surfaced in most counselling circles seeking solution:
As obscure as answers to these questions may seem, it is clear that counsellors' roles and
functions go hand in hand and that counsellors themselves should have some responsibility in
defining their roles and specifying the services or functions they provide such that it is different
from, and cannot be mistaken for, those provided by other professionals. However, this does not
presume that all counsellor will work in the same way under all conditions. Afterall, counsellor
themselves are not the same: they differ in their personalities motivations and levels of
experience. Any documentation of counsellor functioning thus serves as general guidelines for
professions practice with the proviso that it is flexible enough to allow for each counsellor’s
individuality, the job setting and his/her level of experience.

THE ROLES AND FUNCTIONS OF COUNSELLORS IN NIGERIAN SCHOOLS


Various roles and functions have been suggested for school counsellors in the past.
Shertzer and Stone (1980), for example, stated that counsellors have functioned in the roles of: (i)
quasi-administrators who act in the absence of principals; they assign teachers and students to
classes and are responsible for extracurricular activities; (ii) generalises who have no specific
function but have priority placed on orientation, group guidance, a developer of cumulative
records as well as a testing expert; (iii) specialists who give counselling priority over all other
activities; (iv) change agents or (v) psychological educators. Wrenn (1962) proposed a statement
of the functions of counsellors regardless of setting, that:
The function of the counsellor in any setting is a) to provide a relationship
between counsellor and counsellee, the most prominent quality of which is that
of mutual trust of each in the other, b) to provide alternatives in self-
understanding and in the courses of action open to the counsellee, c) to provide
for some degree of intervention with the situation in which the counsellee finds
himself (or herself) and with “important others” in the counsellee's immediate
life, d) to provide leadership in developing a healthy psychological environment
for. . . clients, and finally, e) to provide for the improvement of the, counselling
process through constant individual self-criticism and (for some counsellors)
extensive attention to improvement of process through research. (p.52)
On the Nigerian scene, some attempts have been made to define and itline counsellor
functioning. Nwoye (1983) found out from a national survey that school counsellors were
responsible to the principals, teachers, students, parents, and the community in certain ways.
Some counsellors responsibilities he listed are that they:
(i) organise orientation to help new students from primary to secondary school adjust to
the new environment;
(ii) define and interpret the objectives of the guidance programme to the principal,
teachers, students, parents and members of the community;
(iii) Identify guidance needs of students and keep teachers informed of developments
which may have bearing on classroom situations;
(iv) assist teachers in providing group guidance experiences to students through talks,
club and classroom activities;
(v) Coordinate the accumulation, development and effective use of meaningful data through
interviews etc. for the effective implementation of the continuous assessment procedures;
(vi) help principal to provide information to parents about school policies etc;
(vii) assist parents to have a realistic perception of their children's attitudes, aptitude,
interests etc;
(viii) collect and disseminate to parents information concerning careers and opportunities for
further education, training and curricular offerings etc.
Ipaye (1986) listed twenty (20) areas of a counsellor's of professional responsibility. He
pointed out in his discussion of, these areas that he had included some areas that in other
countries would belong to other school personnel like psychologists, social workers etc. It is quite
evident that these personnel are not presently available in our schools and he therefore
suggested that until such a time when they are available, school counsellors would have to
perform their functions. The intention of this writer is not to critique these earlier write-ups; rather,
an attempt is made here to present a framework through which the role of the school counsellor
can be delineated and within which the counsellor can be seen to be performing certain
prescribed functions. It is assumed within this framework that the role of the counsellor
determines his/her functions. The discussion that now follows highlights six (6) main roles of
counsellors in Nigerian schools and contained within each of these roles are specific functions
expected.

THE SCHOOL COUNSELLOR PLAYS THE ROLE OF A PROFESSIONAL AND


SPECIALIST IN COUNSELLING
Counselling is the main domain of the school counsellor and anything that has to do with
this service must be performed by the counsellor. The counsellor is expected to devote a great
deal of his/her time to counselling. Just in the same way that a teacher in a school is employed to
guide and stimulate students' learning, so also is a school counsellor employed to use his/her
skills to assist students, to resolve their everyday problems or conflicts which have been, or may
be, obstructing their search for learning. In individual counselling, the school counsellor seeks to
assist students on a one-to-one basis to resolve problems and concerns of an educational
vocational, social, emotional or moral nature under optimal conditions of confidentiality and
mutual trust. In essence, helping students to become more fully aware of themselves and the
ways in which they respond to the influences of the environment is basically the sole
responsibility of the counsellor. It is known that students enter into schools with various problems
emanating from their homes, within the community or at school and counsellors should be able,
to use the: wealth of skills and resources to help them gain insight into these concerns. It may be
prudent for school counsellors to use the group approach to an advantage when it may be
impossible to reach all students because of the large size of most schools. Group counselling
also has the advantage of use because the group climate conforms to our strong African
traditional background of groupness which helps to make students feel more at home. That
several students with varying backgrounds and experiences are assembled together may help to
indicate to them (students) that they are not alone with their problems (universality) and this helps
to quicken their recovery. Under no circumstances should counselling with students and/or staff
be left to paraprofessionals or other auxiliary staff members. All professional counsellors are
assumed to have undergone sound train! in the use of various skills and they should learn to put
such skills into use in their roles as counsellors.

The Counsellor Plays the Role of a Curriculum Planner


Counsellors should be active in the development, and implementation of school
curriculum activities and programmes designed to facilitate students' development. Counsellors
should be involved in, all stages of curriculum development and the professional body, e.g. CAN,
should take a position regarding the operation of any curricular innovation. This is so because
most of the curricular course offerings in our schools are designed to develop students'
intellectual ability only without due consideration for their emotional and physical well-being.
Counsellors' presence on such bodies will help to ensure that course offerings are broad-based
and that their assessment procedures cover all the three domains of learning. It is gratifying to
note that guidance and counselling programmes of Nigerian universities are housed in
Education Faculties. So, it can .be reasonably assumed that counselling practitioners cannot
be said to be totally ignorant of the processes involved in curriculum planning and
implementation. Even so, counsellor education programmes of Nigerian universities should
design specific courses in curriculum planning and development for their trainees for the purpose
of familiarising them with these skills.
Counsellors should be more active in schools by suggesting to authorities innovative and
more pragmatic ' activities that can make students' learning more rewarding. Extra-curricular
activities are educative and they can be meaningfully structured to serve a complementary
function to the school curriculum. The counsellor who takes an active part in the formation and
running of clubs and associations is more likely to understand students better as he/she gains an
insight of 'the students' potentialities ±ir and outside the
classroom.
Class scheduling is an area in which counsellors can also help in schools. While subjects
like Mathematics and English Language are offered daily to students in schools because of their
importance in certification and their pre-requisite status into higher .institutions, it has been
observed that periods of the day in which they are offered may contribute to students' lack of
motivation in them and their subsequent failure. In also ensuring adequate scheduling) each
school activity and/or subject should, as much as possible, be given equitable attention within the
school programme so as to make their Impact felt by both staff and students.
Subject teachers have been known to ignore individual students' motivation toward the
subject and for the most part, topics are usually taught without bearing to its relationship with
other subjects and to career patterning. Issues like these should form discussion topics that
should be initiated by counsellors in staff meetings/seminars as part of their role in curriculum
planning.

The Counsellor Plays the Role of a Test and Measurement Expert.


Tests are used in schools as a means of evaluation and of determining individual
student's needs. When tests are seen only in the narrow perspective of examinations and
quizzes, they become anxiety producing and they may tend to scare students and parents. The
new 6-3-3-4 system of education places a lot of emphasis on testing (especially the continuous
assessment component) and this aspect should be a major function of counsellors. Counsellors
are expected to play a significant role in co-ordinations the accumulation, development and
effective use of meaningful data through the use of tests and non-test devices for the smooth
implementation of the continuous assessment of students at all levels of secondary school.
Continuous assessment information provides a useful tool in helping to make transition decisions
on students from JSS or from SSS to further education or employment.
The counsellor appraises students through diagnosis. All the vital information needed in
helping students to understand their strengths and weaknesses - their abilities, interests,
interpersonal relationships etc are derived through testing. Ipaye (1986) defined diagnosis as a
measure that helps the counsellor to make certain conclusions, no matter how tentative about the
client's characteristics, the extent/magnitude/type of his/her problems, probable causes of such
problems and probable alternative ways and means of offering help.
The counsellor, because he/she is the expert, administers scores and interprets the
various' psychological, tests. During training, counsellors are exposed to psychological testing
which they implement on the field. Most psychological tests that have relevance in our schools fall
within, the Interpretive competence of counsellors. However, counsellors should be cautious
when using intelligence, tests and projective techniques as they are usually fraught with errors. It
is quite heartening to note that the Federal Ministry of Education is currently validating some of its
commissioned tests and it is hoped that a forum will be created in the future where practising
counsellors will be familiarised with their uses. It is known that in some states, career
masters/mistresses are being trained on a short-term basis. It should be highlighted here that
such trainees are only professionals whose roles are to assist counsellors in schools. They
should not be made to serve in place of counsellors, and in testing they can only assist in
administration and probably scoring of some psychological tests. They possess no competency
in interpreting any psychological test;
When certain attributes of students are to be gathered and standardised tests are not
available, problems may arise. It is the responsibility of counsellors to construct local and
standardised tests where necessary. Counsellors are expected to have been trained in test
construction and instrument development and such knowledge should be put to practical use in
schools.

The Counsellor Plays the Role of a Career Developer


The school system provides a medium through which students can be trained toward a
goal, which usually ends up in a career. The school counsellor with a developmental purpose,
prepares students using their educational resources to attain a career choice. This is done
through:
(a) Information — by providing useful and purposeful information by which students can make
effective and sound educational and career decisions. Knowing the type of subjects that are
available in the school, knowing which subjects to choose, combining the right subjects which
can lead to a desired streaming in the SSS and gaining insight into institutions of higher
learning where training can be offered are some educational and career information that
school counsellors can provide.
(b) Orientation — by giving needed information with a guide as to the use of such information
makes it relatively easy for students to adjust to new environments or situations. Newly
admitted students are introduced to schools through orientation programmes designed to
cover their adjustment to classrooms, the boarding house, the library etc. Counselling which
is concerned with the understanding and adjustment of individuals within their environment
for self growth underscores the need for counsellors to partake in orientation programmes.
(c) Vocational development and career education - by mounting activities such as career talks,
career trips, symposia etc., students are able to learn to make meaning out of their
educational pursuits. Counsellors should, apart from these activities, guide students on how
to complete job forms and forms into higher institutions; they should teach students
interviewing skills and keep a listing of job agencies and vacancies that exist within the
community.
(d) Placement - by assisting students who have completed educational requirements at
prescribed school levels, counsellors are able to seek assistance from industries,
governmental agencies or private employers in creating job opportunities or placing students
according to their capabilities. In fulfilling the placement function, counsellors need to teach
students various skills relating to employment - job-seeking and job-getting; staying on the
job; writing application letters or filling application forms and interviewing.
The Counsellor plays the Role of a Consultant
Consultation is an expert advice rendered by a professional. In a guidance programme, it
is the process of providing technical assistance to teachers, parents, administrators and other
counsellors to identity and remedy problems that limit their effectiveness with students or that limit
the school effectiveness. Consultation is the key descriptor of the counsellor's work especially
since he/she is skilled and has .all the student-school related information in his/her care. Using
the Cumulative Record Folder (CRF), the counsellor serves as consultant to parents, employers
and the community on students. If there are ambiguities about students' behaviours in and out of
school, the counsellor is able to provide clarifications on such matters and can also serve as
referee to students when they apply for jobs, for admission to other institutions or for
scholarships.
The counsellor acts as staff consultant. Some school cases are unclear or controversial
and may involve disciplinary decisions; without being members of the disciplinary committee,
counsellors can offer sound professional advice to staff. When teachers need advice as to know
how they relate to students, other teachers, or administrators, counsellors can be very useful.
Parents need advice as to how to deal with their adolescent children and how to make
the home educationally rewarding. Some children have problems of communication and
relationship with their parents at home. Some parents have need to resolve some of their own
personal concerns. Counsellors can thus function in these various roles as parents' helper.

The Counsellor Plays the Role of a Community Change Agent


The counsellor is a helping professional who advances the personal development of
individuals. When he/she does this in and out of the school for the benefit of students, staff,
parents and the community, then he/she becomes an agent of change for the community. This
the counsellor does by maintaining community contacts to be able to identify resources which are
useful for individual student development and for effective change in behaviour. The counsellor
maintains a list of referral agencies and personnel within the community to which students can be
referred. The counsellor acts as the public relations officer to the school by interpreting test
results to interested parties, by .publishing school material that can be of benefit to both the
school and the community and by helping to clarify issues on students matters which are of a
developmental nature. Counsellors help the school to provide information to parents and other
community members about school policies, procedures, course offerings, educational
opportunities as well as requirements and resources which can contribute to the overall
development of their wards.
As a community change agent, counsellors are responsible for conducting local research
studies to accumulate data on clientele needs and problems, as well as their characteristics. Also,
follow-up studies should be conducted by counsellors on graduates of schools ad those who drop
out so as to collect relevant data for its (the schools') improvement.

CONCLUSION
It is clear from this paper that a basic issue that any school counsellor must address
concerns his/her role and functions. As stated in the National Policy on Education, does the
school counsellor want only to play the role of a career expert and a behaviour modifier or does
he/she want to add other responsibilities? Should the counsellor be an advice-giver? A teacher's
helper? A disciplinarian? Should he/she play all these roles at the same time or at different times?
There seems to be no simple or straight-forward answers to these questions. In seeking answers
to these questions, a problem that counsellors may have to contend with has to do with their view
of their role when it is in congruence or in conflict with that dictated by the school. There is usually
no problem when the roles as perceived by the counsellor and the school are congruent.
However, when for example, the principal wants the counsellor to be the disciplinarian, the
secretary of the PTA, or the librarian, these duties may limit the time the counsellor has to do
his/her real work. In such instances, it should be the responsibility of the counsellor to define
his/her role or provide for scrutiny by the principal the general guidelines prescribed for the
profession.
This paper has given general guidelines under which school counsellors can function in
playing their professional roles. It is anticipated that the Counselling Association of Nigeria (CAN)
would soon agree on the roles and functions of school counsellors, following which such a
document would be made available to members. If this is implemented counsellors would then
be able to operate easily in schools within professional boundaries and the seeming jealousy
between administrators and teachers on the one hand and counsellors on the other hand can be
settled. It is then, and only then, that counselling in Nigeria can be said to have made giant
strides toward professionalism.

REFERENCES
Durojaiye, M.O.A. (1976). A New Introduction to Educational Psychology. Ibadan: Evans Bros.
Ltd.
Ipaye, B (1986). Roles and Functions of Counsellors in Nigerian schools. The Nigerian Journal
of Guidance and Counselling, 2(1), 87-106.
Nwoye, A. (1983). Towards a policy definition of the counsellor. An unpublished M.Ed thesis,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Shertzer, B. & Stone, S.C. (1980). Fundamentals of Counselling. (3rd Ed.), Boston: Houghton
Mifflin Co.
Wrenn, C. C. (1962). The Counsellor in a Changing world Washington, D.C.: APGA.
Wrenn, C.G. (1973). The Contemporary world of the Counsellor. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.