EXTENDING A HAND: THE STUDENT COUNSELLING PROGRAMME REVIEW
The Student Counselling Program started with the motive to help and prepare students to make the transition from a life spent in school and home to a life lived in college and hostels. Students do not just need help regarding academics and co-curricular activities, as is the popular opinion; but they face a diversified set of problems, pertaining to social life, culture shock, financial matters and the likes. Apart from targeting and combating these problems, SCP also aims to tackle issues like “zoneism”, rejig the ever-decreasing interaction between students and their seniors and juniors and also eradicate latent forms of abuse and ragging, if any. SCP has also been given the mandate of dealing with cases of year backs and backlogs. Such huge responsibility is also being backed by an enormous budget of 20 lakh INR.
A properly functioning and responsible Student Counselling Program is indeed very important at NITR and its populace of approximately six thousand. Nearing the end of the second semester, Team MM decided to review and see what SCP has achieved in the past few months. Here’s a comprehensive report of the same.
MUSINGS OF THE SPEARHEADING LEADER: K.C PATI
Prof. K.C Pati, the professor in charge of the Student Counselling Programme had a tete-a–tete with the correspondents of Monday Morning about the way Student Counselling Programme fared. The following are some of the excerpts of the Interview:
MM: How would you describe the publicity raised for SCP? Were enough freshmen aware of it and did they contact their mentors in time?
K.P.: In my opinion, the number of awareness drives have been enough and so have been the workshops. However, not enough people have attended the workshops to be well aware of SCP. I also understand the means through which publicity reaches the students have changed over the times. Facebook, Instagram, and other means have become more efficient means of publicity. I feel there could be more initiatives of making each batch aware of the services of SCP. Maybe a drive for 15 days wherein batches of students can be made aware of the programme.
MM: What was done to bring all freshmen under SCP and ensure that they had a good mentor-mentee interaction going on?
K.P: At the beginning of the session, an orientation programme specifically targeted to foster mentee – mentor interaction was organized. The mentors were instructed to meet and get to know the freshmen personally. We expect them to be friendly seniors whom the freshmen could contact whenever need be.
MM: What was the objective of the remedial classes? Were they met? Were the volunteers remunerated for their service?
K.P.: It was observed that the first and second-year students were often stressed about the curriculum and examinations and we observed that some particular subjects have a very high failure rate. The students did not feel comfortable to ask the teachers and the teachers also did not get the viewpoint of students at times. Thus, it was decided that tutors from 2nd year, 3rd Year and subsequent year students could be appointed to aide the students. The tutors were remunerated with Rs 500 per class.
MM: Tell us about the status of the SCP Building.
K.P.: The counselling building is expected to be functional from July. Most of the work is done and the furnishings are the only aspect remaining. The building will have a lounge, a private space for counsellors, classrooms for remedial classes and waiting room as well.
MM: Can you give us a breakdown of how the budget of 20 lakhs allotted to SCP was spent?
K.P.: The documentation of the expenditure is with the Director and SAC. The budget was mainly utilized for the furnishings of the building, payment of the psychologists and the counsellor, remunerating the tutors and other miscellaneous expenditure.
MM: How will you rate the work done by the coordinators and mentors? How will they be selected for the next session?
K.P.: In my opinion, 50% of the mentors have worked very hard to achieve the status of SCP as it is now. The co-ordinators and other associated bodies like Monday Morning have done a great job in my opinion. That said, the creativity of reaching out to students has to increase. The previous batch of mentors was selected through responses of a Google form and a Personal Interview.
SCP launched its website on 20th January 2018. The website has been developed very well and contains information about all the faculties-in-charge, the 14 student coordinators, and the various medical personnel, like the psychiatrist, Dr P. K. Nanda and the student counsellor, Dr Ekta Sanghvi. The website also contains short notes about all the domains falling under SCP and all the issues that they handle. There is also a section on feedback, where students can submit their response and opinions. The homepage opens to a number of welcoming, motivating quotes and an illustration, encouraging people to talk and share. A notice board informing visitors about remedial classes and other important titbits is an add-on to the website. The website can be found at scp.nitrkl.ac.in .
SCP has conducted many events to help both mentors and mentees. At the start of the session, the Director met up with the mentors to get to know them and their coordinators better. SCP also recently conducted a workshop; ‘Be Motivated, Be Successful’, for all the students to help raise their spirits and learn the mantra for success and happiness.
The remedial classes are a good initiative by SCP to strengthen students in a few choice subjects where they require help. The tutors are senior students, with a better understanding of that course and with an eye for mentoring students in academics. The tutors are compensated for their generous and voluntary help.
The psychiatrist and the counsellor hired by the institute are visited by a number of students. Dr P. K. Nanda, Psychiatrist meets up with nearly twelve visitors, who come up to him on a weekly basis. He has had a total number of 105 students coming up to him and seeking his help, till date, since his joining in the previous semester. Dr Ekta Sanghvi, the Counsellor, joined in January 2018 and has handled nearly 58 cases. Of these, she is visited by 9 who require frequent counselling and has seen great progress and open-mindedness.
Factual details received say the above story, but it is of utmost importance to discuss and analyze each facet of a story, and the most important facet in the story of student counselling programme are the students of the institute for whom the program was rolled out. The following is a detailed analysis of the survey conducted among the students by Monday Morning of the institute about the mentioned parameters of the Student Counselling Programme.
The question asked was whether the publicity and awareness drive for Student Counselling Programme effective. 41 % of the respondents claim it was indeed effective. 38%, however, claimed that it was just average but could have been more effective. A considerable 21% though feel that it was not at all effective.
68.7% of the freshman respondents felt that the mentors were always approachable and helpful towards them. A 19.2% felt otherwise and claimed that their mentors were never there for them. 12.1% felt that the mentors were available some of the times but not at all times.
The students were made to rate the effectiveness of the remedial classes on a scale of 1-5. A majority of respondents gave it a rating of 3-4, which implied that they felt it was effective but needed improvement.
Workshops of SCP
The majority of students again rated the effectiveness of the workshops conducted on a scale of 1-5.Majority of respondents gave it an effectiveness rating of 3, which was almost average. A further scrutiny would probably reveal the reasons as to why the workshops were not perceived outstanding.
SCP Website and Page
A clear-cut 53.8 % of the respondents denied being aware of the page or the website of SCP. 46.2 % responded in the affirmative.
Services of Student Counselling Programme
SCP offers a number of services listed in the preceding paragraphs. Unfortunately, 39%, i.e. a majority of students denied being aware of all the services of SCP. Some of it can probably be attributed to lack of publicity and some can be attributed to the lack of interest of the students to probe. 37.1%, however, seem unsure of the no.of services it offers and seems to know some of the services.
Approachability of Counsellors and Co-ordinators of SCP
The academic issues are what plague the freshmen mostly, but the period of the college has had people going through a lot of different phases and emotions. Issues other than academic affairs are often sensitive and the counsellors provided have proven a blessing for people. However, breaking through the taboo and freely approaching them when we feel the need is a major hurdle in the path of the success of SCP. It seems though that the NITR populace is shedding these inhibitions as 22.1 % gave a rating of 3 when asked this and another 22.1% gave a rating of 5 which implies that they are completely free to approach counsellors if need be.
SUGGESTIONS FOR SCP
Some of the respondents pitched in suggestions for improvement for the programme as well. Most of the students felt that the initiative was necessary and the conceptualization good too, however, the implementation was in need of improvement. A major chunk of freshmen felt that the major hurdle was breaking the barriers of formality between the mentors and the mentees. A few of them also felt that there needs to be a mechanism in place to check the effectiveness of the tutors for the remedial classes and some autonomy in choosing tutors. Increase in publicity and a more meticulous study of the issues that plague the students before deciding upon the content of the workshops and sessions have been dubbed as a major requirement.
MENTORING FRESH MINDS
A total of 135 mentors had been selected to mentor all the new students who joined NITR. The mentors are all students, pursuing their bachelors, masters or doctorate degrees and have spent a minimum of two semesters at NITR. The mentors were guided by 14 coordinators who were chosen from among them. The mentors were allotted mentees from the freshmen batch to guide and help.
A survey conducted for the mentors by Monday Morning revealed the following. Contacting their mentees was one of the major problems that the mentors faced. The mentees had access to their mentor’s cell phone number and email ids, while the mentors only had access to their mentees’ roll number, through which they could contact them through the institute’s webmail system.
However, seeing as the freshmen students do not have access to the webmail until registration of their ids and passwords, this did not help either. So the program asked the mentees to contact their mentors. This posed a problem as most of the clueless mentees did not contact their mentors either out of ignorance or reluctance, before the deadline of 5th August 2017. Soon, the mentors learned to search for their mentees through other means of contact, like the social media, other first-year students, webmail and the likes. Despite this, many mentors haven’t been able to get in touch with many of their mentees and the mentees too, haven’t shown any interest in getting to learn from their mentor. All this could be due to many factors like the poor and untimely publicity of and by SCP as well as the general disinterest of students.
The mentors redirect some issues up to the coordinators and doctors if they feel the need for it. They have made sure that their mentees know about the counselling services provided by the institute.
While most of the freshmen approach their mentors with issues related to academics, social life, and personal matters, a few also seek help in on financial matters. The mentors are supposed to do their best to solve or suggest solutions to them. The mentors are expected to be no less of a friend in need for the young students; someone to look up to and learn from.
Having reviewed the Student Counseling Programme’s performance in the first year, the loopholes in its organization and implementation are clearly evident. It is also known now the initiatives that have been received very well and need to be continued and improvised.Team Monday Morning hopes that the initiative is able to improve in such a way that it serves the students well in an optimum way.