Five years ago, Pune Muncipal Corporation’s education board took a step in the right direction. Today, it’s flagship school counseling project is growing by leaps and bounds. Started in 2008, the programme has now expanded to all 310 civic schools, covering over 1 lakh students.
And surprisingly the age-old behavioural problems of the kids studying in these schools, because of their adverse home environment, are getting resolved swiftly, thanks to the consistent efforts of 55 counsellors assigned to this project.
The project had kicked off with a modest budget of Rs 15 lakh, and 20 counsellors. But now, observing the positive attitudinal changes in the children, the allocation has gone up to Rs 50 lakh. Since the beginning, the NGO Vyaktitwa Vikas Prabodhini has been overseeing the initiative.
“We initiated the project, focusing on the psycho-emotional problems of the kids. We created an open environment, so the children could share their feelings, and talk about matters they can’t discuss with their parents and teachers.
I am happy that from the current academic year, students from all the 310 schools will benefit from this project,” said Dr Bharat Desai, chairperson of Vyaktitwa Vikas Prabodhini.
All the 55 counsellors provide personal counselling, group counselling, and organise group activities for students, depending on the cases. “Every school has different issues. I work in Hadapsar area, covered with the slums of Gosavi vasti.
Addictions like that of whitener and tobacco are the main focus areas I am currently working on. The other issues are behavioural problems, like inferiority complex due to unhealthy family relations, getting attracted towards opposite sex, etc.
But yes, the psychological counseling is changing the picture,” Varsha Jagtap, a counsellor who is looking after five schools since the last four years,
said. Deputy head of PMC education board Shilpkala Randhve, who is looking after the administrative end of the project, said, “We started the programme in a few institutions. But, in a couple of years, we realised that this should spread to all schools.
Cases of single or alcoholic parents are major issues, which ultimately affect the mental makeup of the children. Fortunately, psychological counselling is providing them the much-needed support to keep focus on studies.”
“The psychologists’ work is not only restricted to counseling. They also conduct various extracurricular and study skills workshops. Recently, Nupur Ghate, a counsellor of our school, organised a Diwali lamp workshop for our students. Such activities not only make children happy, but boost them with exposure and confidence,”
Curse of red-tapeism
While the project is on the right track and getting expected results, on the other hand some counsellors are blaming red-tapeism by PMC education board, which is leading to delays in their salaries being credited. When contacted, PMC education board chairperson Ravindra Chaudhari said, “There are some technical problems due to which salaries of most of the counsellors working on this project gets delayed. But, I am personally looking into this, and I assure you that it will be resolved soon.”