Lupane State University trainee peer counsellors had an educational tour of Contact Family Counselling Centre on Wednesday (13/05/2015), in recognition of counselling as an important component of student wellness.

The team of sixteen was eager to learn more about CONTACT and the counselling profession, as they felt that the organisation could impart more knowledge to them on counselling.

“We have started a student wellness program in which we train students in peer counselling so that they can assist each other as collegues,” said Fredrick Mabhikwa the registrar at Lupane State University. “We acknowledge that counselling is not the co-business that students came to our University for, and so in our trainings we do not burden them with a lot of material. However, we want them to be able to assist where they can and then refer to professional counsellors at CONTACT, who offer free counselling.”

The students, although coming from different departments like Language and Communication, Geography and Population Studies, Accounting and Finance among others, agreed that the peer counselling training they were undergoing was an important aspect of their wellness.

A wellness program is any program implemented to improve the health of a labour force or in this case, students’ lives at University. It helps individuals overcome specific health-related and social challenges.

“As students, we are benefiting a lot from this,” said Sakhile Ndlovu, a student undergoing the peer counselling training. “Most of us have problems with relationships, abusive partners, and rowdy classmates and sometimes we even have challenges with lecturers. Peer counselling is therefore very relevant and it is even better to know that there is an organisation we can refer other cases to.”

Nhlanhla Ngwenya from the Student Affairs Department said he appreciates that CONTACT is willing to assist in this program as it will benefit students as they have a lot of challenges. He cited that even the press has reported stories of students committing suicide and so as a University they have chosen to respond.

CONTACT works with various sectors of the economy, offering trainings and free counselling. Over the years, the organisation has built itself a reputable name and it gets referrals from the courts, clinics, social services, the police and former clients among others.

Last year, Lupane State University visited CONTACT with staff members who were being trained in counselling.

Contact’s training co-odinator, Dumisani Ndlovu, thanked Lupane State University for the confidence they have in the organisation’s services and trainings and advised the peer counsellors not to feel overwhelmed with cases as they have their studies to concentrate on.

“Just offer what we can refer to as ‘first aid,’ said Ndlovu. “After that, you can refer to us as we are professionally trained and have all the time to attend to people in need of counselling.”

He commended Lupane State University for taking a stand in improving the lives of their students and urged other tertiary education institutions to follow suit. In addition, Ndlovu highlighted that CONTACT is also in a position to offer a three or five day training workshop in Basic Counselling Skills to any group of people that may be willing to be trained.

By Christina Ncube

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