Student's wish: More guidance counselors in schools

MANILA, Philippines – If there is one thing college student Carlo Arevalo could ask the Department of Education (DepEd), it would be to ensure the presence of more guidance counselors in schools.

The 20-year-old  Polytechnic University of the Philippines student shared his wish at the DepEd’s first national child protection summit on Thursday, August 23, where school and government officials, child rights advocates, and legal experts discussed strategies to strengthen the government's child protection policy. (READ: 'Rights-based' education needed to protect children in schools)

“It really is a cry for help that we need guidance counselors,” said Arevalo, a student representative at the panel discussion.

“This is hopefully something DepEd will really do, especially in public schools because children face different issues nowadays. They have depression and suicidal thoughts that we wouldn’t usually notice in a child,” Arevalo added.

The DepEd is looking to fill positions for 3,500 guidance counselors. Of this target, 1,300 have been filled as of July. According to the DepEd, low salaries have discouraged applicants as the starting salary for guidance counselors in public schools is about P12,000.

DepEd has asked the Department of Budget and Management to increase the salaries of guidance counselors to about P31,000 to properly compensate them for their work, which requires a master's degree and license to practice.

'Are you okay?'

Arevalo shared that he was among those who greatly benefitted from the help of a guidance counselor when he was in high school.

Ang laki po ng respeto ko sa mga values education teacher po na laging nandoon po para sa mga estudyante at nagtanong sila kung okay lang siya,” he said.

(I have great respect for values education teachers who are always there for their students, and ask if they are okay.)

Arevalo said he was often bullied in high school and he had to turn to his values education teacher, who also served as a guidance counselor, for help. He said the guidance counselor told the bullies that what they did was wrong and that their actions had a negative impact on others' lives.

The guidance counselor was also the one who really pushed him to finish high school, he said.  Arevalo said they also help students cope with pressures from school, family problems,  and also mental health issues. (READ: How does the PH fare in mental health care?)

Arevalo shared that many of his friends who also deal with mental health issues, acknowledged the need for more than guidance counselors in school as one alone cannot address all the needs of students.

“What teenagers want is someone who listens to them. Even if they do not always understand what we are going through, as long as they listen that is already a huge factor,” he said.

Future teacher

Arevalo said he also wants to become a teacher who will be there for students who need counseling.

“I for one suffer from depression because of heavy school load but then gusto ko po sana to say bilang magiging future teacher din, ‘Dapat ikaw Carlo, maging aware ka sa mga bata mo. Kausapin mo sila laga kasi napakalaking impact po ng gawin natin pagkausapin po yung ma bata,'" he said.

(I for one suffer from depression because of heavy school load but then I hope to say, as someone who wants to be a teacher one day, “Carlo, you should also be aware of your students. Talk to them often because talking to students has a huge impact.")  – Rappler.com 

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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