General News of Sunday, 18 August 2019
Research by the Mythology Department of the University of Ghana has revealed high rate of suicidal tendencies among some pupils and students.
The Head of the Department, Professor Joseph Osafo, has consequently called on the Ghana Education Service (GES) to pay serious attention to mental health needs of pupils and students.
He said the findings by the department recently showed that one out of every four students in secondary schools in the Greater Accra Region had engaged in self-harm, including self-cutting and injuring themselves because they were going through some psychological problems.
The research findings, he said, also showed that one out of every five children had contemplated suicide.
Prof Osafo, who is also a clinical psychologist and suicidologist made the disclosures at a public lecture organised by the Ghana Psychological Association on ‘Attaining quality education: untying the knotty issues” in Accra on Friday.
While expressing concern about the high levels of mental issues related to students and pupils, Prof Osafo said the figures from the research were cause for worry to the nation and the quality of people it was producing from the schools.
“There have been instances where fathers were sleeping with their daughters and causing them to have abortions and so they go to school and they are not able to perform,” he said.
The psychologist explained that students were not only being stressed by the heap of curriculum but that even access to schools were stressful, adding that bullying was another major problem in the schools.
“The school systems, especially when it comes to access to the senior high schools and universities, were becoming stressful. It is horrible that in Ghana and Africa, passing examination is a problem and failing the examination too, is also a problem” he said.
Prof Osafo added that various governments had implemented and rolled out various policies in the education sector without the inputs of psychologists, stressing that it had created a gap in the sector.
On bullying, he said, it made students especially from the junior high school to senior high school, lose their self-esteem and confidence.
He explained that the needs of children were not taken into consideration as other parents or the school decided their area of study for them.
“We have had instances where children have killed themselves because they felt they had failed their parents (or not making good grades to pursue the course they (parent) want them to do,” he said.
While calling for clinical psychologists to be incorporated into the school system, he underscored the ‘need to build the capacity of teachers to detect some of the psychological cases among pupils and students for quick attention.
He further called on the government to take mental health seriously in schools while undertaking various social interventions to enrol more students in the schools.
The Principal of the ‘Comrade College of Education, Reverend Dr Kwesi Nkum-Wilson, also expressed concern about the curriculum being used to teach children right from the primary school to the university level.
Rev. Dr Nkum-Wilson, who is also a counselling psychologist, said the school system only motivated students to compete among themselves for grades and pass examinations instead of teaching them to develop themselves.
‘The school system must teach the children how to become independent after school while equipping them with skills to think critically, be creative, innovative and goal-getters who make use of opportunities given them,” he said.
He urged the government to supervise private schools more strictly saying some of them were stressing the children.
Support the Ministry
The Deputy Minister of Education. Mrs Gifty Twum Ampofo appealed to the association to develop guidelines on psycho-educational assessment in the school system for the purposes of identifying children with special needs: and remediation of same.
She also urged the association to help the ministry by conducting a policy-driven research to inform educational policies.
The President of the Ghana Psychological Association, Dr Erica Dickson said even though the education sector had good policies, there was the need to conduct research into these interventions to ascertain their impact and bow they could be modified for better outcomes.
She said psychologists were essential resources that the government could rely on to shape the young generation to be morally upright mentally and emotionally healthy.