In an innovative move, a peer group empowerment programme is to be launched in vocational higher secondary schools where students, rather than teachers or professional trainers, will become guidance counsellors for their colleagues. As a pilot project, this is being launched in 14 selected vocational higher secondary education (VHSE) schools in the state which have a strong National Service Scheme (NSS) functioning.
The programme, tentatively named ‘Disha’, is to be held in partnership with the National Rural Health Mission. It is meant to address the mental and emotional health of students in higher secondary schools, said VHSE-NSS State programme coordinator E Fasil.
“The basis for this will be Theme-Centred Interaction (TCI), a social learning concept developed by German psychologist Ruth Cohn,” he said. “A TCI workshop was conducted in St Ignatius VHSS, Kanjiramattom last year, where the most troublesome students were given training and made counsellors. Seeing the positive results, we submitted a report to the NRHM in order to scale it up.”
According to Thomas Abraham, a trainer of Ruth Cohn Institute (RCI)-International and founder of RCI -India, TCI is an “introspective, interactive and transformative” activity meant to boost students’ confidence about themselves.
“The first part is a two-day workshop where 20-30 students participate, interact and introspect,” said Abraham. “These students are not the star pupils of a school but rather those facing difficult situations at home or other such troubles.” The next step is to make peer mentors of them, he said.
“Students will know better than teachers or parents what is happening with their peers - if anybody is doing drugs, who’s ‘in love’ and so on,” he said. “The peer mentors will become instruments of change by becoming role models and confidants to their colleagues.”
Later stages of the programme include sessions for parents and teachers as well. For the pilot project being launched in 14 schools - one per district - a team of seven trainers are being prepared. A financial support of around 10 lakhs is being provided by NRHM.
“We had come across lots of emotional and psychological problems in adolescents through our School Health Programme which we hope to address through this project,” said NRHM Mission Director Beena M. “If this works out well, we can scale it up to more number of schools next year.”
The pilot programme took place last week as part of the on-going VHSE NSS State Annual Meet at Jagathy GVHS School for Deaf.