Marina Segura Ramos
Madrid (EFE).- The majority of the 10,000 counselors who work in the country’s educational centers, “three times less than necessary”, are overwhelmed by the exponential growth of mental health problems and ask for more resources to stop doing “juggling”, a demand that is becoming urgent due to the events in Sallent and Tarragona.
“I’ve been a counselor for thirty years and before I made one or no referral to mental health a year, now I make one a month,” the president of the Confederation of Organizations for Psychopedagogy and Guidance in Spain (COPOE), Ana Cobos, told EFE.
In 1970, the General Law of Education included the figure of the counselor in schools and institutes, among whose functions is psycho-pedagogical evaluation, academic and professional counseling and giving all kinds of support to students with difficulties.
The professor at the University of Málaga and guidance counselor believes that what has happened in an institute in Mislata (Valencia) can be extrapolated to all centers in the country, whose management team resigned en bloc a few days ago due to the lack of resources and response from the Administration to fifteen procedures for suicidal, self-injurious or violent behavior among their students.
The authorities do not understand the need for counselors
“It is evidence” that the pandemic has triggered mental health problems, stresses Cobos, who does not question the great commitment of European funds to digitize the school, but stresses the importance of personal support for students.
In this context, he defends that it is not only necessary to reduce the ratios in the classroom “at least by half”, but also to strengthen the counselors. “We calculate that in Spain, although it is difficult to know because we have 17 different educational systems, there are about 10,000 counselors and there should be three times as many, 30,000.”
The UNESCO recommendation is one counselor for 250 students, while in Spain there is “one for seven or eight hundred”.
In some communities, there are itinerant counselors in Primary Education, with which they are in charge of several centers, and nobody takes Early Childhood into account. “If the authorities had the real will, they would start precisely at the bases, with Children”, the stage in which future difficulties can be detected and prevented.
“If in an HEI with 400 students there are four math teachers and one counselor and in one of 800 students there are eight math teachers and there is still only one counselor, what logic does this obey? Our society today is much more complex and the authorities do not seem to understand it”.
By definition, he adds, you work with few resources. “Every day we have more functions to attend to and we have to juggle. We are the ‘Tedax’ who always have to work with sensitive material. If there is a bomb, the counselor is called and if it explodes, it’s up to you and you die for sure, but if you deactivate it, nobody finds out”.
“I pray that I retire, I have six years left, without ever having to go to the funeral of a student” who has taken his own life.
New problems: the “hikikomori” syndrome
Added to the problems of addictions, self-harm, suicidal ideation, bullying and eating disorders, now is the hikikomori syndrome”, people who voluntarily isolate themselves from society.
The latter “is not yet very common, but it will come because there are more and more children whose social life is on the networks,” explains the president of COPOE.
The doctor in psychopedagogy is not optimistic about the future because she believes that the current situation “is going to get worse and at a dizzying speed.”
The Confederation organizes the next 21 and 22 April the XIII State Meeting of Educational Counselors under the title Educational Guidance as a Protection Factor”, in the city of Murcia.