Assessing the Effectiveness of the Counselling Services at the Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL)
The Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL), a state owned Open and Distance Learning (ODL) introduced counselling services as part of its learner support system in 2017. NAMCOL appointed counsellors in the northern, southern, central and northeastern regions to offer both individual and group counselling sessions. Each counsellor was assigned to one Block tuition centre. The academic tutoring and counselling sessions are offered during the school holidays. This study was conducted to assess the quality and effectiveness of the counselling services NAMCOL provides to its learners. // Focus group interviews was held with 9 learners during the tutorial sessions. Individual interview sessions was held with seven counsellors and three Head of Centres. Activity theory was used as a framework to analyse the collected data from the perspectives of the learners, counsellors and Head of Centres. // While the findings of the study showed that the learners who received counselling found the services helpful, a number of factors which hindered its effectiveness were identified. Firstly, not all the counsellors that were appointed were adequately qualified and trained to be professional counsellors. The counsellors were further not provided with a private office to conduct the counselling and that hindered learners from attending the sessions. Counselling sessions were allocated the same time slots as the classes which resulted in learners choosing to attend the classes instead of the counselling sessions. The limited time set aside for counselling prevented the counsellors from following-up with the learners to determine their progress after their first session. Some learners were not aware of the counselling sessions that were offered indicating that the marketing of the services was not adequate. A level of mistrust between learners and counsellors was identified. Learners indicated that unless they were reassured that what they shared would be kept in confidence, they would not be comfortable attending the sessions. A lack of understanding of the value of counselling and the cultural stigma of seeking counselling was also identified as a barrier to learners seeking counselling. // Since the psycho-social support that counselling provides is as critical as the academic support learners need to be successful, it is the recommendation of this study that NAMCOL provides regular counselling services to its learners and not just during the block tuition sessions. This study further recommends that learners be made aware of the counselling services that NAMCOL provides and the role counselling plays in their academic performance, appoint professional trained and experience counsellors, and allocate designated private spaces for the counselling session and ensure learners that information shared during a counselling session will be treated strictly confidential. // Paper ID 194
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