Although there is an ever increasing realisation of the value and necessity of guidance and counseling in Uganda, there are still many problems and challenges preventing the full scale adoption of guidance and counseling services in the nation.
These problems once tackled will not only improve the state of the profession but will also cause positive impacts on Ugandan citizens.
Below are the 10 major issues affecting guidance and counseling in Uganda and possible solutions to them.
Challenges Affecting Guidance and Counseling in Uganda and Solutions
1. Limited number of professionals
The biggest challenge in the establishment of guidance and counseling in Uganda is the paucity of professional guidance counselors.
While everyone can offer advice, it takes someone who has gone through a formal training process to understand the complexity and needs of counseling.
For instance, when students come to to counselor with a case like rape, it takes someone skillful with counseling techniques to help them over overcome the trauma. Also, the client is secure because the counselor understands counseling ethics.
Uganda has a limited number of trained professionals available to provide guidance and counseling services, which can lead to high caseloads and burnout among those who are available.
2. Limited resources
Guidance and counseling services in Uganda often lack the necessary funding and resources to effectively support students. For instance, many schools do not even have a provision for a guidance counselor’s office.
The government needs to become more intentional about the development of the practice in the nation. But this cannot happen without effective advocacy by counselors and the school authorities.
3. Negative societal attitudes
In some parts of Uganda, there is a lack of understanding and acceptance of the role of guidance and counseling in education, which can make it difficult for services to be provided.
Many people, including teachers and school administrators, still see hiring a counselor as waste of resources and believe counselors aren’t making an valuable contribution to the system.
The responsibility of correcting this menace is vested upon counselors themselves. People are not to be blamed for not seeing the benefits of the profession. Instead they should be enlightened and given enough reason to believe that the profession is really helpful.
4. Limited professional development
Many guidance and counseling professionals in Uganda may not have access to ongoing professional development opportunities to keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date.
Society is ever changing and every single day, more and more issues keep coming up that counselors aren’t used to or trained on while in school.
If Ugandan counselors do not find these opportunities, many clients will not receive adequate help.
Government and private institutions should set up training centers for counseling that offer short term refresher courses in specific areas of specialization. For instance, the Institute of Counseling is one of such organisations established by private bodies in Nigeria.
5. Limited data and research
There is a lack of data and research on the effectiveness of guidance and counseling services in Uganda, making it difficult to inform policy and practice.
Most (if not all) of the counseling theories being employed by Ugandan counselors were propounded by foreigners.
While all humans are the same across the globe, there are some peculiarities as a result of environment and culture that might not be adequately addressed by foreign theories.
Lecturers and professors of guidance and counseling should take it on themselves to study the Ugandan landscape and identify its peculiarities as well as how best they can be addressed.
6. Limited support from schools and government
Some schools and government officials may not fully understand the value of guidance and counseling services, and may not provide adequate support for their implementation.
Regardless of how much effort and intentionality guidance counselors put into their work and professional development, they cannot do it alone. For instance, in a school setting, the input of the school guidance committee is needed as well as other school guidance personnel.
In the larger society, the counselors must work hand in hand with the HR department of workplaces if they will see any success.
The solution to this problem affecting counseling in Uganda is to advocate for the support of these authorities through personal relationships and partnerships. This should be in addition to the advocacy to members of the community talked about earlier.
7. Limited infrastructure
Schools in Uganda may not have the necessary infrastructure, such as counseling rooms, to support guidance and counseling services.
The government should make the establishment of guidance and counseling infrastructure a criterion for approval of new schools. Also during school supervision and inspections, the state and functionality of the guidance programs of the schools (both public and private) must be assessed.
8. Limited awareness of services
Some students and families in Uganda may not be aware that guidance and counseling services are available, and may not seek out support when needed.
School guidance committees should maximize the assembly grounds, orientation programs, career days and so on, to sensitise students on the issues that can be handled by guidance and counseling and the presence and reliability of the school counselor.
9. Limited cultural sensitivity
Some guidance and counseling professionals in Uganda may not have the cultural competency to work effectively with students from diverse backgrounds.
More counselors should be trained from the different cultural and religious backgrounds of the nation so they can easily cater to those from those regions.
10. Limited access
This is the result of all the other problems identified above. Despite the large-scale lack of awareness of the efficacy of the profession in Uganda, a good number of Ugandans are still aware and would love the services of counselors and therapists but they just don’t know how.
Counselors must make themselves more readily available and ring their bells loud enough for people to know where to find them.
These are some of the major problems affecting guidance and counseling in Uganda today. Some other problems are similar to problems of counseling seen in Nigeria. We have also covered some solutions to these issues that involve the collective responsibility of the government, schools and counselors themselves.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.