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Background to the Study
The pivot of the developmental efforts of any modern society is her educational sector, which every other sector revolves around. Her policies, economy, technology and social cohesion largely depend on her educational sector. Today, in the quest and race to become a developed nation by the year 2020, Nigeria does not only need intellectuals or technocrats but also wholesome individuals to fulfil the dream.
According to the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) in her National Policy on Education, university is charged with the primary responsibilities of teaching, research and providing quality service to the community and society at large. Students can feel overwhelmed or discouraged as they face various life and academic challenges that confront them in today’s complex university system. In supporting students through their academic programmes and promoting their development, Guidance and Counselling plays primary functions in meeting the stated mission of any university.
The researcher, from personal experience with students, observed that utilization of Counselling centres by undergraduate students in Nigerian universities is generally low. Given the plethora of problems that these students face in their various universities, which should invariably require counselling services, it is surprising that they do not utilize counselling centres.
The natural question to ask,is “why are the students not utilizing counselling centres?” The picture is further accentuated by the fact that despite the National Universities Commission’s (NUC) 2013 Benchmark statements for the establishment of Counselling and Human Development Centres in Nigerian universities, surprisingly, many universities are yet to comply. It would seem that the overall picture of the provision of counselling services on the one hand and the utilization of these centres on the other hand is not bright for Nigerian universities.
In a bid to grapple with this anomaly, three public universities with functional Professional Counselling Centres were purposefully selected for the research. They are the Universities of Benin, Benin City, University of Lagos, Lagos and the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
My experience in the course of carrying out this research work indicates that there is a paucity of reviewed indigenous literature but majority of the available ones are based on foreign experiences and foreign authors. It is my hope that this “pioneering” work on the
“Assessment of Demographic variable differences in Undergraduates’ Utilization of Professional Counselling Centres in Selected Public Universities in Nigeria” would stimulate the interest of other researchers, such that, in no distant future, the field would be agog with indigenous literature.
The major clientele of the universities are young adolescents and adults between 16-30 years. They are faced with psychological, personal-social, educational, social, vocational, financial and health related problems. Frank &Karyn (2005) argued that although university undergraduate students are young adults, most of them remain in a suspended state of semi-immaturity and dependence, compared with persons of the same age who do not attend any university but begin their careers immediately they attain puberty.
New students are usually faced with a lot of problems when trying to adjust to the new environment. They are besieged with problems like budgeting their slim resources (Pocket money) to enable them eat balanced diet and keep healthy at school, handling accommodation problems and effectively managing time and freedom without parental guidance.The new students who are faced with these numerous problems are usually seen utilizing counselling centres for proper guidance so they can adequately adjust to the new environment in their academic sojourn. The older students do not utilize these services in counselling centres. When they are faced with problems, they tackle them by themselves.
Adolescents by their nature and level of development experience problems but they seek the help and counsel of their peer groups rather than utilize counselling centres. The adult students utilize counselling services more in areas like career and vocational counselling, job placement, writing and preparing curriculum vitae, because these adequately equip them to adjust better in the labour world after graduation. Single students utilize Counselling Services more than married ones. They usually will seek counselling on dating, courtship and friendship related matters. The single students equally utilize counselling services on ways to live harmoniously with their roommates in the hostel as in most cases, they quarrel and fight in their rooms.
Married students usually are very reluctant to utilize counselling services. When they live in the hostel, they cooperate better with their roommates, and do not divulge marital related issues to a counsellor easily because they fear lack of privacy and breach of confidentiality.
Generally, men are less emotional than women and believe they can solve their emotional problems by themselves. Male undergraduates are usually involved in risky maladjustment behaviours like cultism, drug/alcohol abuse and impersonation in examination halls. Their reserved and ego-related nature usually prevent them from utilizing available counselling services in counselling centres, many of them associate stigmatization with utilizing counselling centres. Female undergraduate students, on the other hand, are more vulnerable and usually very disposed to the utilization of Counselling centres. Research has revealed that female students are more likely to utilize counselling services in the centres, because women in general show a higher ratio of depression and anxiety.
The universities have recognized gaps in the personal development of these students and consequently, provide Counselling centres to meet the students’ needs. The general objectives of these Counselling centres are to assist students in their personal growth, so that they may function effectively and achieve success in their academic endeavours, and create programmes which may solve their personal and career problems.
Larnap (1993) stated that counselling services in tertiary institutions are highly needed in areas of curbing juvenile delinquency and other forms of social maladjustment behaviour including the use of dangerous drugs, practice of cultism and its associated danger, areas of poor and lack of adequate hostel facilities, inefficient and irregular transportation for students and serious issues on poor academic performance. The ultimate expectation is that, students will be helped in developing their potentials to maximum capacity.Ipaye (1990) viewed Guidance and Counselling as providing an atmosphere as well as a setting which can be a physical, social and psychological environment within which a counsellor can provide help to a client or a group of counsellees. There is agreement among experts that there are three major components of Guidance and Counselling. These are Educational Guidance, Vocational Guidance and Personal Social Guidance (UNESCO, 2009). Under these three major areas, there are several Guidance and Counselling Services such as Appraisal, Information, Placement, Orientation, Evaluation, Referral and Follow-up (Danga, 2004). Each of these major components with their services address students’ needs, challenges and problems. Effective Guidance and Counselling centres need to be based on a complete understanding and acceptance of student’s experiences. Thus, effective Guidance and Counsellingservices are not only crucial for those students who deviate from the norms, but for all university students (Mutie&Ndambuki, 2004)
A number of studies have been carried out on counselling needs and counselling services of students Egbochuku(2005), Aluede, Imhonde&Eguavoen(2006), Alutu(2008), Egbochuku&Akpan(2008), Eyo, Joshua &Esuong(2010), Regis(2012)andYirgalem(2013).Lapan, Gysber& Sun (2003)Explored similarities and differences between undergraduate and graduate students from two Nigerian universities in terms of their counselling needs and Counselling Services. He found that younger and older students shared some similarities in academic counselling.Older students had more multiple personal-social problems compared with younger students. A study on stressors and Counselling needs of undergraduate nursing students at the university of Ibadan (Omigbodun, Onibokun, Yusuf, Odukogbe&Omigbodun, 2004) identified common stressors of students as excessive school work, financial problems, inadequate recreational facilities and overcrowded accommodation.They also reported inconsiderate and insensitive lecturers as evidence of psychological distress. Nearly 60% of the respondents felt counselling would help and most of them desired counselling for academic, financial and personal relationship.
Despite the Counselling services rendered to students, utilization of thecounselling centres arevery low and because of low patronage of students to the centres, majority of them are forced to live with their academic and social problems. The Students are also faced with maladjustment problems, are involved in examination malpractice, develop serious lack of respect to constituted authority, and engage in secret cult societies with the attendant criminal activities on campuses. Usually, there is an increase in health related problems, such as (STIs) sexual transmitted infections, (HIV)Human Immuno deficiency virus,(AIDs) Acquired Immuno deficiency syndrome. The manifestation of these social problems by students suggests that a gap exists in the universities inthe provision or utilization of Counselling centres.
From the researcher’s experience, as a counsellor in a Nigerian university, there is a clear indication that many students do not utilize the Counselling centres provided by universities. Despite a variety of counselling activities organized for students in the university, they are only attracted to the counselling centres when they are offered scholarships, bursary awards, have orientation programmes for fresh students and when there are compulsory seminars organised for specific groups of students. Clearly, the patronage of voluntary Counselling services bordering on personal, emotional or psychological problems is very low. It appears that students with such problems mentioned above only go to the centres when a referral is made by a professional. It is against this background that this study is being undertaken.
Statement of the Problem
According to Omigbodunet al. (2004),there is a rapid change in the educational, vocational and social life of people in modern Nigeria as she undergoes a transition from an essentially traditional society to a modern one. Such changes place considerable stress on students whose coping and adaptation mechanism often fail when they find it difficult to overcome the stress. Counselling services have been introduced in university centressince 1980. However, the rate of utilization of the services gives cause for a lot of worry.
A study involving 4,699 first year students at a British university (which was 84% of first year students at the university) showed that 3% had used university Counselling centres by the end of the second semester (Cooke, Bewick, Barkham, Bradley &Audin, 2006).Similar overall utilization rates of between 2 and 4% have been reported in America(Yoo&Skovholt, 2001), South Africa (Flisher, 2002), and Indonesia (Setiawan, 2006).
Research further reports that students’ utilization of Counselling centres is affected/influenced by demographic variables such as gender, level of study, age and marital status (Arco, Fernandez, Heliborn& Lope, 2005). Gender may play a role in help seeking behaviour and the utilisation of Counselling centres as the available evidence suggests. Studies consistently show that women are more likely to seek help for emotional issues and they also possess more positive attitudes towards counselling than men (Freeman, 1992) and this may be one reason that men perceive greater stigma associated with seeking help and utilizing Counselling centres. Brown (2008) stated that quite often married students are wary of stigma and lack of confidentiality and therefore, hesitate to utilize Counselling centres, the single students freely associates with their peers and utilize such available services being provided in their universities. Fresh students (100-200 levels) are also the ones who have greater needs than the older students (300-600 levels) for counselling due to their lack of experience and the special needs they encounter when beginning their university studies (Costello, Angold, Burns, Erkanli&Stangirweed,1996).
A study conducted by Gonzalez, Alegria&Prihoda(2005) showed that young men between 15 and 17 years and 18 to 24 years were significantly less likely to utilize Counselling centres than same aged female peers. But the in differences between gender and help –seeking propensity disappeared in older male group aged 35 to 44 years and 45 to 54years.In other words, older men did not report less likelihood of utilizing Counselling services in the University Centres than 15 to 24 years old women. Gonzalezet al(2005) Ellen(2000) stated that while it was difficult for men to find the type of counselling help they needed for both academic and personal concerns, women are less reticent about admitting their difficulties and looking for help. Furthermore, studies have reported some demographic variation in the pattern of utilization of counselling centres by university undergraduates. All these are in respect of undergraduates in foreign countries. The case of Nigerian universities has not been comprehensively researched.
Previous Studies by Pritohard Wilson&Yamnitz (2003),Frey (2006), Cooke et al (2006), Hyun,Quinn,Madon&Lustig(2007),Ibu&Maliki (2010)have attempted to evaluate and compare the utilization of counselling centres by students in state and Federal universities. The researchers also carried out studies to determine if location and type of tertiary institutions affect utilization of counselling centres. However, they did not specifically research on utilization of university counselling centres by undergraduates. To the knowledge of the researcher, much of this aspect of the work has not be done. Hence the researcher’s interest is to find out if undergraduates utilized the university counselling services provided for them by the various universities professional counselling centres.
This research is, therefore proposed to find answer to the following questions:
These questions are the underlying problem that this study seeks to investigate
Purpose of the Study
The study examined the demographic variable differences in under graduates utilization of university professional Counselling centres in selected Public universities in Nigeria.
Specifically, the study:
Significance of the Study
It is envisaged that the study will benefit university counsellors, university undergraduates, university management, policy makers and administrators in the ministries of education and National Universities Commission, Educators and Curriculum developers.
The finding of this study will assist university counsellors in their evaluation of their Counselling service. Furthermore, the counsellors will also have the information needed to make a number of decisions related to what Counselling services to provide in counselling centres, how the services should be provided and when to provide them to the students.Such information will make university counsellors more effective in the execution of their duties, thereby maximally benefiting the students.
The findings of this study will also assist student counsellors in understanding student’s affairs, thus, helping them to achieve academic, vocational, personal- social, growth and appropriate integration into the values and productive activities of society. Undergraduates are likely to be better off in terms of acquiring decision-making skills, making appropriate choices from a number of alternatives and developing their capabilities and potentials to the fullest from utilizing the counselling services available in their various university counselling centres.
The recommendations of this study may assist educational policy makers, curriculum developer, and the university management in planning and making appropriate policies and programmes to strengthen Counselling services in the universities’ counselling centres. It would also assist educators and curriculum developer select complementary counselling theories and strategies to enhance counselling services at the counselling centres in Nigerian universities.
This study will add to the limited literature in Nigeria on the utilization of university professional counselling centres by undergraduates in Nigerian universities.Finally, it is anticipated that the study would create awareness on the importance of utilization of university professional Counselling centres in Nigerian universities. Hence, filling the gaps in research in this area may prompt other researchers to undertake similar studies in other educational institutions.
Scope of the Study
The study assessed under graduates utilization of professional counselling centres in selected public universities in Nigeria. This study will be limited to the undergraduate students in the purposefully selected public universities in Nigeria.These are the universities of Benin, Benin City, University of Lagos, Lagos and the Federal University of Technology, Akure. Post graduate students are not covered by this study.
The study assessed the utilization of Counselling centres by undergraduate students. The considered demographic variables are limited to age, gender, marital status and level of study of the students.
Limitations of the Study
One of the limitations of this study was the paucity of indigenous literature on the subject. Majority of available literature were based on experiences in other countries which already have cultural biases. This study covered only selected public universities in Nigeria. Its findings may therefore, not be generalised to the entire country.
Most universities in the country have not established functional and adequately equipped counselling centres, as majority of the existing centres are located in Students Affairs Divisions or as a units in Faculties of Education.
Operational Definition of Terms
Counselling Need: means service designed to help an individual analyse himself by relating his capabilities, achievement, interest and mode of adjustment to new decisions he has made or has to make.
Level of Study: This is the administrative and academic classification of students based on their year of admission and academic performance. This study covers 100 to 600 level students. For this study 100 and 200 levels are regarded as lower while 300 – 600 levels are seen as higher levels.
Demographic Variables: Demography is the scientific study of human population, encompassing their sizes, composition distribution and changes. For this study, the demographic variables of students would be restricted to gender, age, marital status and level of study.
Counselling centre: The counselling centre is that physical structure that is established to create a conducive student – friendly environment for rendering effective counselling services.
Age of student: The study is concerned with students within the age bracket of (16-30+) years.
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