History of Guidance and Counseling In South Africa (1961 to date)

Before the development of modern-day guidance and counseling, informal or traditional guidance activities were present in the traditional cultures of all the racial groups within South Africa.

An example is the Black traditional guidance practice called abakhweta ritual, where young males are initiated into manhood through a 3-month process of ceremony and instruction by the most respected men of the community. 

During this ceremony, all of the young men’s previous possessions are burned as a symbol of the commencement of a new life as an adult. 

Similarly, the so-called witch doctors have played a very similar role in traditional African society, to that which psychiatrists play in modern society.

Related: What Is Guidance and Counseling (Overview, Types, and Scope)

Establishment of the First School Guidance for Whites

Only Whites had voting rights in South Africa, and the victory of the Nationalist party in the 1945 election resulted in the shady incorporation of Afrikaner nationalist values and norms into the education system for Whites.

This process was formally consolidated in 1967 when a new, comprehensive National Guidance Service for Whites was legislated, which the government claimed should be viewed as an “auxiliary education service based on the same view of humanity and outlook on life” as that of the education system. 

This guidance service, which in practice tends to become didactic and moralistic, was thus prescribed for all White schools with inspectors appointed to supervise its implementation. 

Related: How To Organize A School Guidance and Counseling Program

Establishment of School Guidance for Blacks

Traditionally neglected by the ruling group, education for black people in South Africa came to be predominantly organized by missionary bodies.

The nationalists, on gaining power in 1948, immediately took control of all Black education. The Bantu Education Act of 1953, which achieved this control for them, represented a systematic plan for the domination of Black minds.

The grossly inferior education that the government subsequently offered in Black schools led to increasing resistance of Black pupils to what their leaders termed gutter education and education for slavery.

The only official form of guidance that existed in Black schools at this stage was an itinerant testing service which constituted a form of social bookkeeping rather than guidance.

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In 1976 there were widespread clashes between the police and Black pupils, and this was followed in 1980 by extensive boycotts of schools by Black pupils.

In 1981, “guidance” was suddenly introduced into all Black schools, and one Black teacher from each school was chosen by the government department responsible for Black education, to undergo the “crash courses” in guidance offered by that department.

The official syllabus for guidance in black schools left little doubt of the social control function that guidance is expected to serve in these schools.

Development of Career Guidance in South Africa

The first formal career guidance service was introduced during the economic depression of the 1900s when the National Institute of Career Guidance was founded and placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of National Education.

This service, which was exclusively for Whites, was a response to the large numbers of poor rural Whites and Blacks who were drifting to the cities in search of employment.

Huge multiracial camps were spontaneously developing, particularly around Johannesburg. This vocational service for Whites added to the government’s protection of the White worker through legislation such as “job reservation”, whereby all work above the level of unskilled labor was served for Whites.

Another such legislation was “influx control,” which made it illegal for rural Blacks to freely enter the urban areas to seek employment.

Toward the end of the 1970s, the economy began experiencing what was termed a manpower crisis.

Increased emigration, especially of the more qualified Whites, and increased military call-up demands upon the White males of the country following the victory of guerilla forces in Zimbabwe, Angola, and Mozambique, led to a serious shortage of skilled and management persons in the country.

But the policy of job reservation meant that Black people were not permitted to train for these jobs. Partly in response to this, the government ordered the most comprehensive and expensive commission of inquiry into education in the history of the country.

One of the strongest recommendations to emerge from this inquiry was that of a greater emphasis on career education and guidance.

The Onset of Community Counselling Services in South Africa

Guidance and counseling outside the school setting was also majorly targeted toward Whites. South Africa has a highly developed economic infrastructure, especially within urban areas.

All of the psychological problems associated with a modern lifestyle prevail.

Thus all of the guidance and counseling services generally offered in any economically developed community are available including diverse psychological services.

But even before now, South Africa has always had extremely high alcoholism, crime, and divorce rates, and rape, child battery, and child-neglect figures are also very high.

Although Black persons are more often the victims of these situations, the community counseling services catered mainly to the White population.

Within the White group, the escalating military conflict on the borders of the country is producing many of the psychological problems associated with warfare.

Present And Future Trends In South African Guidance Services

In recent years, the South African government has made significant efforts to improve access to guidance and counseling services for all citizens, particularly for marginalized groups such as rural communities and people living in poverty.

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) is responsible for ensuring that all guidance and counseling practitioners are appropriately qualified and registered with the relevant professional bodies.

There are various professional bodies for guidance and counseling practitioners in South Africa, such as the South African Council for Educators (SACE), the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), and the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA).

Related: Counselling Association of Nigeria (History, Functions, and Achievements)

Guidance and counseling services are now provided in schools, universities, and community centers. Schools are required to provide guidance and counseling services to their learners as part of their educational programs. 

Many universities have counseling centers that offer support to students facing personal or academic difficulties.

Related: 20 Roles of Guidance Counselors in Schools

Challenges Affecting the Development of Guidance and Counseling In South Africa

Despite the efforts made to improve access to guidance and counseling services in South Africa, there are still significant challenges, including a shortage of qualified practitioners, limited resources, and cultural barriers that prevent some individuals from seeking help. 

Shortage of qualified practitioners

One of the main challenges facing the guidance and counseling sector in South Africa is a shortage of qualified practitioners. 

According to a 2019 report by the HPCSA, there is a critical shortage of psychologists in South Africa, with only one psychologist for every 100,000 people. 

This shortage is particularly acute in rural areas, where access to mental health services is limited.

Related: How To Improve Counselor Training Programs

Limited resources

Another significant challenge facing the guidance and counseling sector in South Africa is limited resources.

Many schools and community centers do not have the resources necessary to provide comprehensive counseling services, such as a dedicated counseling room or sufficient funding to hire additional counselors.

Related: How To Set Up A Minimalist Counselor’s Office

Cultural barriers

Cultural barriers can also prevent some individuals from accessing guidance and counseling services.

In some cultures, mental health issues are stigmatized, and seeking help is considered a sign of weakness. This can make it difficult for individuals to seek the support they need, particularly in rural communities where traditional beliefs may be prevalent.

Lack of funding

The guidance and counseling sector in South Africa is underfunded, and many practitioners are underpaid. This can lead to a lack of motivation and burnout among practitioners, making it difficult to retain qualified professionals in the field.

Related: 7 Ways To Advocate for Guidance and Counseling

Addressing these challenges will require a concerted effort from the government, professional bodies, and practitioners to improve access to guidance and counseling services, particularly in rural areas and for marginalized groups.

This will require increased investment in the sector, improved training and support for practitioners, and greater public awareness of the importance of mental health and counseling services


Overall, while there have been improvements in the provision of guidance and counseling services in South Africa, more needs to be done to ensure that all individuals have access to the support they need

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