Story & Photos By Georgene Quilaton-Tambiga
Based on the 2020 Department of Education data, the Philippines has at least 20 million public school learners but there were only 1,096 active guidance counselors who catered to their mental health and wellness needs. This roughly means that one registered guidance counselor (RGC) serves 18,248 students (approx.) per school year. Elementary schools in far flung barangays and communities in towns and component cities away from provincial capitals have the least access to wellness activities, counseling and crisis situation de-briefing.
One of these schools is Ansulag Elementary School, located in Barangay Rizal, San Carlos City. This partner school-community of the G.U.G.M.A. (Giving of Ultimate Gifts, Memories & Assistance) adopt-a-school project of Colegio de Sto. Tomas-Recoletos had 293 learners during the thick of the pandemic, from 2020 to 2022. With families employed in varied industries like construction and agriculture, Ansulag pupils are not exempted from exposure to factors that trigger mental health concerns and issues.
As part of the symposium for face-to-face learning readiness, Ms. Ma. Nita V. Bolo, CST-R guidance counselor led the mental health and well-being discussion with the Ansulag community of parents, guardians and teachers. Ms. Bolo emphasized the value of mental health awareness among school stakeholders and of facilitating basic wellness activities that could help ease pressure and stress among parents, pupils and teachers.
The Thomasian RGC also discussed the red flags that parents should watch out for when behavioral changes or shifts occur among children and teenagers. Ms. Bolo also provided the teachers with a basic guide for processing children who may be undergoing difficult situations at home or who may be having symptoms of anxiety and other mental health concerns. She reminded the teachers that their pro-active role is vital especially in school settings that do not have an assigned RGC who can professionally address mental health and well-being concerns.
During the open forum, one attendee opened up about the difficulty of accessing mental health services especially for a community like them that can only be reached by riding a motorcycle and by hiking. One of the teachers also shared how they are managing the learning of their pupils who show symptoms of learning deficiencies but have not been properly evaluated and categorized. The symposium and open forum last August 4, in Ansulag Elementary School is part of the extension services that CST-R Community Extension and Development Office (CEDO) gives to its partner school-communities and organizations.
Magsambol, Bonz and Christina Chi. “With shortage of guidance counselors, how will PH students cope with pandemic?”. Rappler. www.rappler.com. Sept 3, 2020, 2:06 PM PHT. https://www.rappler.com/nation/shortage-guidance-counselors-how-students-cope-pandemic/. Aug 12, 2020.