I am proud that many of my ex-students and counsellors are reviving the peer helping program or better known as Pembimbing Rakan Sebaya (PRS). Amidst enthusiasm, I do have some concerns about how PRS are trained, the trainers themselves and the goals they want to achieve. I received a lot of feedback - some very encouraging and some very disappointing. As the Founder of the program, I am concerned that the basic concept does not derail from the original principle.
Common comments that I heard is that PRS program is not working. To me whether the PRS play their roles or not depends on the trainers themselves and how they are trained to be trainers. If their PRS are not functioning , then the counsellors or the trainers should look at the way they trained the students, the modules they used, the follow-up activities they conducted and the monitoring of PRS and the projects that they do. Many counsellors seemed to train their students in ad hoc basis with no follow-up training, lack of monitoring, and minimal guidance. If this is the case, the counsellors or trainers should be careful not to blame PRS or the program. In fact the fault lies on themselves - no proper training as trainers, misunderstanding of role of PRS, lack of commitment and minimal understanding on how the program benefits the students. Many individuals are ready to highlight the negatives but refuse to look at the positive aspect, even among counsellors themselves.
The followings are a few tips that can help those interested in PRS program to enable it to be successful.
1. Not all counsellors can be good PRS trainers and not all of them are interested. Those interested and committed should be trained and the training is not just a one day workshop with an expectation that they would become experts. In 1989 - 1993, by Ministry of Education's funding, and with the help of other professionals, I conducted 3 month full-time courses for master trainers at Institute Aminuddin Baki where I was attached to at that time. They in turn trained school counsellors from all over the country for a full time one week course. This seems to be just a history now. So training of trainers for PRS program is crucial.
2. Counsellors who are interested and committed to the program, should find other alternatives if training is not provided. Use structured group work as a base to draw your module and strategy. I know counsellors trained in Unimas are comfortable in this as they have been trained in conducting structured group work in their coursework. Read books on the subject. The focus of training is experiential learning. Do not lose hope and give up. Ask help from those who have experience.
3. Proper paper should be written with clear objectives and goals, procedure etc. as record so that everyone is clear of the purpose of the program and its creditability.
4. Ethics of PRS and the trainers should be well expressed and explained.
5. Select your PRS carefully based on your needs and believe. Training academically excellence students is good but look at their social circle and relationship. Average students could find the program as a motivation to achieve. Underachievers could gain self-confidence and drive to do better. Counsellors should use the program to help students to be better individuals and establish a sense of pride of one's achievements. Be specific on your strategy of selecting your PRS.
5. Design, adopt and adapt modules to meet your objectives. The approach of training is experiential learning. Make sure the training is fun.
6. Prepare evaluation forms for feedback on your training skills, skills and knowledge gained and areas to be improved. Evaluate yourself honestly and improve as you go along.
7. Schedule regular meetings once a month, at least, for reinforcement and sharing. Stress on confidentiality. If time is a constrain, use 'mesyuarat nasi bungkus' strategy during their lunch break.
8. Bear in mind, PRS are NOT counsellors and their training is more on how to be effective friends with good listening skills - not counselling skills.
9. PRS need to keep proper records of their activities with regular checking and discussion by the counsellors on issues they need guidance. Encourage them to keep record of their activities.
10. Enhancing further skills and knowledge is important and all PRS should have regular short trainings as top-up in various skills such as leadership, decision-making, mentoring friends negotiation, public speaking etc.
11. Rope in other colleagues or counsellors who are interested in promoting students' welfare as supporters and backup personnel and train them or get them involved in activities and training. They are valuable assets as help in organizing activities.
12. Any behaviour contrary to ethics and principles of the program should be discussed with PRS before action is taken.
13. Recruitment of new PRS should involve the experienced PRS and proper supervision on the training should be done by counsellors.
14. Prepare strategy of acknowledgment to PRS as an appreciation of their contribution such as monetary reward, certificates, points, outings or special acknowledgment. This is important.
All the above points, I have written in detail in my books (though old but they are still relevant).
1. Boleh Saya Tolong Anda? First published 1989. ( The first book on Peer Helping written in Malay). My old publisher has agreed to update this book together with my 2 other books - Kaunseling Dalam Pengurusan and Anda OK!
2. Pembimbing Rakan Sebaya - Langkah Seterusnya. This book is still available through my publisher, IBS Buku Sdn Bhd. Call Balan 012 6514683 for enquiry and order.
3. Pembimbing Rakan Sebaya - Modul Latihan Asas, 1993, published by Kementerian Pendidikan written by me with a few co-writers. You can find it in libraries or borrow from older counsellors.
4. Buku Rekod Aktiviti Pembimbing Rakan Sebaya which I wrote in 1993 and published by Kementerian Pendidikan. I suspect the book is still available in Kementerian Pelajaran with unethical new printing. Check with counsellors in Kementerian or Jabatan Pelajarn Negeri. Look for the green cover, not the purple one.
5. Perkembangan Bimbingan dan Kaunseling: Pendekatan yang Praktis, translated by me, written by Dr. Robert Myrick and published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in 1993. This book is not printed anymore but can be found in DBP or libraries. Bob Myrick wrote some chapters about Peer helping which could help counsellors here in Malaysia.
6. Fasilitator Kelompok Kecil, I wrote and published in 2004 and still available from IBS Buku Sdn Bhd. Please call Balan for enquiries and order 012 6514683. This book helps counsellors to select suitable activities and games for PRS training.
7. Pengenal Kaunseling Kelompok, a book I wrote in 1989 but has been updated many times. The latest updating was in 2009 and still available at IBS Buku Sdn. Bhd. Call Balan. A good reading for counsellors to reftresh memories on group counseling.
Besides these books I have also written articles in newspapers and journals about the program and its management and impact. All materials in PRS program which I introduced while working in Institute Aminuddin Baki have been handed over to the library. I am not sure whether the materials are still kept intact there. Other source is in Pusat Dokumentasi in Kementerian Penyelidikan ( please check on name). I personally handed over some materials to the officer in charge in 1993 when I left IAB for Bahagian Sekolah-Sekolah, Kementerian Pendidikan. As a last resort some materials on PRS may be found in my personal file in the National Archive.
I wish my ex-students and other counsellors and individuals the very best of luck in conducting this program. Your dedication and interest will bear fruits sooner than you expect. Please let others who are not very sure on what to do about starting PRS program to read my blog and to get my books and other relevant books as a guide. I am also available for short discussion or short consultation through email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Above all, never forget to acknowledge your PRS' contributions. So prepare strategies of appreciations such giving monetary rewards, extra points, outings, formal announcements or any other forms of appreciation. Both PRS and counsellors need to be appreciated and acknowledged in order to maintain motivation.
May God bless you all. Good luck.