‘How CASSON has complemented govt’s efforts in combating COVID-19’
Reverend (Dr) Stephen Oladele Ayankeye is the immediate past chairman of the Counselling Association of Nigeria (CASSON), Oyo State chapter. In this interview with MODUPE GEORGE, he speaks about efforts towards professionalizing the association, role of counselling in schools and impact of COVID-19. Excerpts
THERE have been efforts to professionalise CASSON. How far have you gone?
We have been on the issue for about two years now. Our national body has presented the bill to the National Assembly, which has gone through all stages of reading. It has got to a level whereby we are expecting the assent of the president. Immediately the president gives his assent, professionalism is established regarding CASSON, like every other profession in Nigeria.
These days, counsellors are no longer visible in schools. What efforts is CASSON putting in place to correct this anomaly?
We are fully aware of this and it is painful to us that as counselors we are not being allowed to function adequately. I believe the problem has to do with the perception of managements of institutions who believe students are just in school to be educated but not to form their lives.
We have school managements; principals, headmasters who don’t understand the value of counseling. They feel everybody who comes to work in a school should teach, thereby assigning courses to counselors, which prevents them from functioning as counselors. CASSON as a body has realised this, and this is one of the reasons we are taking the issue of professionalism very seriously. It will allow counselors to be accorded the appropriate recognition in the society, especially in schools.
Now that the terminal classes have resumed in Oyo State, when do you think full academic activities should resume?
I would not encourage a situation where government just throws everything open when we are not certain of who is infected or not. Even in China where the whole thing started from, we learnt when students are coming into schools the way they access them is so well organised that it will be difficult to spread the virus. If government wants to reopen schools, there should be proper monitoring. We can put in place gadgets and arrangements that will give room for proper screening which will be a kind of repeated screening and not just once-and-for-all kind of screening. Most importantly, basic measures such as hand washing, use of hand sanitizers and face mask should be enforced for whoever comes in as schools are being reopened.
A lot has been brought to the table as to how best government should combat the spread of COVID 19 in the country, in what ways has CASSON complemented government’s effort in this regard?
CASSON as a body has been very active and supportive as to how to curb the spread of COVID-19 through a lot of advert jingles through its different chapters. We have sensitised the people on the importance of keeping the rules stated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the government to curb the spread of the disease. As an association, we have critically counseled the citizenry on how to manage the psychological impact of COVID-19. There was a radio programme in one of our zones where a topic was treated on handling emergencies in life focusing on COVID-19.
In addition to educating the masses on the rules, we are have been having series of radio programmes where CASSON members are participating to encourage people that hope is not lost in whatever form or capacity.
There have been positive and negative impacts of COVID 19 on the family. The positive aspect of it is that, as professionals, we have realized that the pandemic has strengthened the bonding of many families. Families were made to stay together during the lockdown period. This was positive in the sense that spouses had time to communicate, share their views, plan the children’s lives and theirs too.
The negative aspect is that some families quarreled more than before. For instance, some spouses used their phones to send text messages to staff members in their organisations, which ordinarily might not be negative messages, but unfortunately due to accessibility of these phones to family members, some reacted negatively to these calls from some of the staff members or bosses of their spouses, especially when it was the opposite sex. This kind of wrong perception really set some families apart.
What do you hope do better as a body with the new permanent secretariat of CASSON?
Let it be placed on record that Oyo State CASSON is the first chapter to set up a permanent secretariat in the federation. What we want is to have is better coordination. For instance, Oyo CASSON has properties scattered everywhere and that can lead to loss of vital documents if we do not have a permanent secretariat. This new development will allow for better record keeping of our activities, and coordination will be made easier. Besides, by the time the secretariat building is fully completed, our members can easily come here for meetings and several other important activities.
Also, members will be allowed to fix meetings with their counselees here, especially for those who are not too far from the location. The new secretariat is an activity centre for CASSON in the state. It will be easy for us to organise seminars, workshop for quite a number of participants.
How do you intend to impact the community where your new secretariat is located?
Immediately we settle down, we will assign a counselor here to attend to couples who come for counseling. Also, wayward children can be referred here for counseling, or individuals who have personal problems. Interpersonal misunderstanding can be handled here to affect the community positively.
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