An investigation of a peer help programme in a local South Africa secondary school : a whole-school evaluation.
The present study involved an investigation and evaluation of a peer counselling programme at a local all-girls secondary school. It is argued that, to be effective, a school-based evaluation should consider the programme through an investigation of its impact on the whole school. As such the main focus in the study is to evaluate this programme from the viewpoint o fthe programme co-ordinator (the school counsellor), the learners, the teacher body and the peer counsellors themselves. The present study was based on predominantly qualitative data collected through the use of interview, questionnaire and focus-group data-collection methods. The results of the study suggest that the peer counselling programme is perceived positively by the majority of learners (both users and non-users) and the teachers. The programme appears to be impacting the school environment by providing additional support to the learners at the school. In addition, the peer counsellors acknowledged the positive impact of their role on their sense of self-worth. A number of recommendations are made in keeping with the aims of an evaluation. An initial recommendation is that the terms "peer counsellor" and "peer counselling" be replaced by "peer helper" and "peer helping", emphasising the more supportive (and less therapeutic) role that the peer counsellors perform. In addition, whilst both the school counsellor and the teachers expressed generally positive comments about the programme, it is suggested that the teachers would benefit from more information with regards to the peer counselling programme. In keeping with a whole-school evaluation, it was felt that the programme would benefit from being more clearly part of the broader school context. Raising both learner and teacher awareness of the programme was a central recommendation. On a broader level, it was recommended that the programme be incorporated into school policy to ensure its official recognition and endorsement in the school context. Peer-helping programmes represent an innovative way in which South African secondary schools can meet the psycho-social and educational needs of their learners. Further research into such programmes may serve to contribute to a body of research that may inform and guide the effective developments of such present and future programmes.