Embracing Pastoral Care in the African Education System by Emma Abboh

Education is a crucial part of social mobility and has a huge impact on future opportunities. Learning comes in many different forms. Pastoral care in school remains one of the most impactful parts of a young person’s educational journey. Pastoral care involves emotional and spiritual support of a young person. The key focus is to raise attainment in education by supporting a young person’s emotional wellbeing. Pastoral care is integral in ensuring that a young person’s education is a positive experience. As educators, we have to understand the importance of viewing a young person’s educational journey holistically and ensuring school is not just a place of learning but also a place of nurturing.
Learning the curriculum is only a part of what a young person learns in school. Pastoral care roles can support young people to take responsibility for their own education. One way this can be achieved is by supporting young people to set and review their own long term and short term SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant and time abound – targets ensuring they remain focused on the end goal.
Young people are often dealing with issues far greater than passing their next exam. Pastoral care means showing empathy towards what a young person is experiencing. This could include being a listening ear for problems outside of education by providing counselling or restorative justice for a disagreement between classmates. An important part of pastoral care involves identifying and monitoring young people considered ‘at risk’ of harm or becoming Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) to ensure they are closely monitored and given access to the correct support.
As well as providing the emotional support, pastoral care also involves taking a hard line to ensure a young person’s future success. This can be achieved by checking attendance, behaviour and providing the parents/guardians with regular updates. A good pastoral leader builds a positive relationship with both the young person and their parents. They become the first point of contact for a child who is distressed and in need of support but also happy and excited to share positive news.
Pastoral care and support can be the difference between a young person leaving education or staying and completing their course. The pastoral care model can be utilised within the African education system to ensure more young people remain in education for longer. The positive impact could result in a better educated future workforce who are emotionally resilient and better equipped to deal with social and emotional problems.
The pastoral support that can be provided for African students can boost benefits that reach far greater than the needs of the student. Pastoral support from school can be extended to families including support with issues within the family as well as housing and financial advice.
Ultimately, providing pastoral support roles within African schools can only continue to benefit the young person receiving that additional help.

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