Guidance and counseling in Ghana have a relatively short history, dating back to the 1950s. Before this time, the concept of guidance and counseling was largely unknown in the country.
It is difficult to determine what guidance and counseling looked like in Ghana during the precolonial era, as there is limited information available about educational practices and support systems during this time.
However, it is known that education was largely informal, and children learned from their families, communities, and religious leaders.
Guidance and Counseling in the Colonial Era in Ghana
During the colonial era, education in Ghana was largely influenced by the British education system.
Schools were established by missionaries and colonial authorities, and the curriculum focused on reading, writing, and arithmetic.
There was little emphasis on guidance and counseling, and students were not provided with the kind of vocational or personal guidance that is available today.
However, some missionaries provided counseling and support to students who were struggling with personal issues, such as homesickness or family problems.
It is important to note that the focus on guidance and counseling in education is a relatively new development in Ghana, and did not become widespread until after independence in 1957.
However, the traditional practices of communal support and mentorship that were common in precolonial and early colonial Ghana may have served as a form of informal guidance and counseling for young people.
Historical Development of Formalized Guidance and Counseling in Ghana
The first attempt to establish formalized guidance in Ghana was in 1955 when the Ministry of Labour and the Ministries of Social Welfare and Education came together to establish a Youth Employment Department.
This was a result of the outcry of Ghanaians for meaningful education for their children which reflected the manpower needs of the country.
The Youth Employment Department was created to cater to unemployed middle school leavers under 20 years of age, concerning placing them into suitable jobs after giving them vocational guidance.
The government that was in place at the time also used it as a means of reviewing the progress of employment in the country.
By 1961 about 30 such Youth Employment Centers had been established in the country.
Serious work in establishing guidance and counseling in the schools, however, began in the late 1960s when the CRDU (Curriculum Research Development Unit) was instituted to cater to programs in School Welfare Services, Education for the Handicapped, and Guidance and Counseling.
Professionals in guidance and counseling experimented with introducing cumulative record cards in Ghana’s schools. Their earlier attempt failed because of their inability to determine which educational level they should work in.
In 1971, however, they launched the cumulative record cards in elementary schools in some districts of five regions in the country; namely Eastern, Western, Volta, Central, and Greater Accra. They also introduced the cards to students of teacher training colleges. The students were taught how to use the cards.
By 1973 about six Ghanaian experts, trained overseas (United Kingdom, United States of America, and Canada) had arrived in the country to contribute to the guidance and counseling field. However, the political conditions in the country did not allow them to work effectively.
A military coup had taken place in 1972. In 1975 some teachers who were not below the rank of Assistant Superintendent were trained to serve as welfare officers in elementary schools.
They were to help pupils, teachers, and parents with problem resolution. In 1976, a great stride in the establishment of guidance and counseling occurred.
The Ghana government came out with a policy, through a directive issued by the Ghana Education Service (GES), for the establishment of guidance and counseling in the nation’s second-cycle institutions.
The directive also made the University of Cape Coast responsible for the training of counseling personnel to serve in second-cycle institutions as guidance coordinators (teacher counselors).
In 1982 another directive from GES stated the desire of the government to begin or to introduce guidance and counseling in the first cycle institutions, in other words, the elementary schools.
With the above policy statement, the IEPA (Institute of Educational Planning and Administration) of the University of Cape Coast was authorized to train selected teachers from secondary schools as guidance coordinators.
The staff for the training comprised lecturers from the IEPA, the Department of Educational Foundation (Faculty of Education), and counseling experts from CRDU. By 1981, about 200 guidance coordinators had been trained and were working in second-cycle institutions or regional or district offices of the GES.
The establishment of the Curriculum and Research Division Unit (CRDU) in the late 1960s opened the way for experts in guidance and counseling to focus their efforts on the planning, organization, and establishment of guidance and counseling in the various institutions,
Courses in guidance and counseling were included in the undergraduate and the Post Graduate Certificate of Education programs for training teachers in 1971.
The objective of including these courses in these programs was to produce teachers who could teach guidance subjects in teacher training colleges.
In 1976, a graduate program in counseling was initiated. This was to produce counselors at the master’s level. Since the 1970s, the University of Cape Coast has continued to run these programs.
In addition to the above, the Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (IEPA), in conjunction with GES, (specifically CRDD) and the Faculty of Education, ran vocational courses for selected teachers from secondary schools and trained them as guidance coordinators for their schools.
As already mentioned above, by 1981 about 200 such guidance officers had been trained.
Father of Guidance and Counseling In Ghana
D.O.K. Dankwa is known as the father of guidance and counselling in Ghana. He contributed to guidance and counseling in Ghana through
- advocating for the establishment of guidance and counselling in second cycle educational institutions,
- championing the move that guidance and counselling courses or programmes be mounted at the University of Cape Coast
- planning guidance programs for vocational courses and term-time attachments for secondary school teachers at the University of Cape Coast, and
- presenting public lectures on the need to establish guidance and counselling services in the schools.
Introduction to Guidance and Counseling In Ghanaian Higher Institutions
The University of Ghana, Legon (Accra) was the first university in the country to establish a Centre for Counseling Services for students.
According to the Centre’s brochure which gives information on the aims, history, and activities of the Centre, in November 1970 the Centre was set up but was then called the Careers Advice Center.
Its main function was to assist in the deployment of the university’s graduates on employment opportunities within the general economy of the country.
The Centre was also to review, from time to time, the performance and effectiveness of graduates in employment and collect other relevant information on graduate employment as feedback for the program’s review.
In 1971, the Centre was given the added responsibility of administering the vocational training schemes initiated by the Science Faculty and later adopted by the School of Administration and the Geography Department.
It was in 1975 that the Centre began offering comprehensive counseling services as provided today. several changes had taken place. The placement services offered by the Centre were drastically reduced because the National Service Scheme (NSS) had been introduced in 1974 and students had to serve for a year on the NSS.
While doing the one-year service, many of them took the opportunity to find jobs in the areas of their choice. Requests for placement, therefore went down.
However, other functions of the Centre increased due to an increase in student population and changes in curriculum offerings.
Thus in 1977, the Centre’s name was changed from the Careers Advice Center to the Counseling and Placement Center “to reflect its increased role in counseling, as well as its placement function.”
Activities of Non-Educational Organizations in the Development of Guidance and Counseling In Ghana
Apart from the counseling services found in educational institutions, many organizations or institutions in Ghana have realized the need for counseling and have instituted counseling services for their clientele.
Hospitals and clinics now see the need for counseling in several areas like AIDS counseling, preventive counseling against STDs (sexually transmitted disease), counseling on nutrition, sanitation, genetic counseling, and many other areas.
In the churches, marriage and family counseling is now firmly established in many denominations, in addition to spiritual and moral counseling.
The Muslim community may have begun, or is on the verge of following in the footsteps of Christians in marriage and family counseling In the prisons and borstal institutes, counseling services are being introduced.
Many other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOS) work with youth, disadvantaged children, and adults. women, rural dwellers, the unemployed community, etc. have instituted counseling services in their work.
The Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) for example, offers counseling services for family planning and population control purposes
Challenges Affecting Guidance and Counseling In Ghana
Here are some of the challenges in the historical development of guidance and counseling in Ghana:
Limited recognition and understanding of the importance of guidance and counseling
In the early stages of the development of guidance and counseling in Ghana, there was limited recognition of the importance of these services.
As a result, funding and resources for guidance and counseling were often limited.
Limited access to guidance and counseling services
Even as guidance and counseling services have become more widespread in Ghana, there are still many areas of the country where access to these services is limited.
This is particularly true in rural areas, where there may be fewer trained professionals and resources.
Limited training and professional development opportunities
Until recently, there were limited opportunities for training and professional development in guidance and counseling in Ghana. This has meant that many guidance and counseling professionals may not have had the skills and knowledge necessary to provide high-quality services.
Stigma and cultural barriers
In some parts of Ghana, there may be cultural barriers that prevent individuals from seeking guidance and counseling services. There may also be a stigma attached to seeking help for personal or mental health issues.
Limited integration into the education system
While guidance and counseling services have become more widespread in Ghana, there are still challenges with integrating these services into the education system.
This may make it difficult to ensure that all students have access to the support they need.
Over the years, the role of guidance and counseling in Ghana has expanded to include a wide range of services.
Today, guidance and counseling services are provided at all levels of education, from primary school to university. These services focus not only on vocational guidance, but also on personal and social development, academic support, and mental health.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of guidance and counseling in Ghana.
The government has increased funding for these services, and there has been a push to provide training for guidance and counseling professionals.
Today, Ghana has a thriving community of guidance and counseling professionals who are working to support the development and well-being of students across the country
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.