The psychosocial experiences of immigrant learners at a primary school in the Western Cape

Mahembe, Mercy (2012-12)

Thesis (MEdPsych)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Includes bibliography

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africa attracts a significant number of refugees and immigrants from poverty-stricken and war-ravaged African nations who come in search of greener pastures. As this population continues to grow, immigrant learners have begun to experience South African schools in an array of uniquely challenging ways (Vandeyar, 2010). This influx of foreigners has increased the diversity in South African classrooms and presents challenges for the foreign learner as well as for the school. While several studies have been undertaken to examine educational factors relating to the education of foreign learners in South Africa, the psychosocial experiences of these learners have not received research attention. The present study sought to understand the psychosocial experiences of immigrant learners in South Africa. The theoretical framework of the study was guided by Erikson’s psychosocial theory. Within the framework of Erikson’s psychosocial theory (Passer & Smith, 2008; Plotnik, 1993), psychological factors such as self-esteem, self-identity, self-efficacy and confidence, as well as social factors such as language, culture and peer relations, were explored in an attempt to understand their adjustment to learning in a culturally different environment. A basic qualitative research design was utilised. Participants were voluntarily recruited at a primary school in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Purposive sampling was used to identify nine immigrant learners between the ages of six and twelve, who had at least attended the first-grade level in their native countries, for participation. Data were collected through the draw-and-tell technique, interviews and observations and analysed by means of thematic content analysis. The recurring themes derived from the interviews indicated that immigrant learners experience psycho-social challenges that involve the accent of the English language, establishment of friendships and bullying. These challenges have had a negative impact on their self-confidence, self-efficacy and self-esteem and their characters have also been changed in trying to adapt to the environmental demands. It is anticipated that the findings of the study will contribute to the development of meaningful support strategies for immigrant learners. The recommendations made include that the school must devise school policies which promote acknowledgement and acceptance of diversity within the school. There is a need for activities that accommodate diverse learners within the school. Learners need to share and enlighten each other about their cultural values and morals. Activities may involve role-plays at assembly, and having different weeks of commemorating or celebrating the different cultures of different learners within the school. The host learners also need to participate in these activities. Adopting the circle of courage philosophy, that is, sense of belonging, respect, generosity and industry, should be the starting point for the school and all learners. Bringing in the circle of courage can assist the whole school in accepting and understanding one another. The circle of courage is a model of empowerment; it is a philosophy in support of ‘reclaiming environments’ for learners. Future studies should investigate the identified themes using a quantitative approach, as well as undertake a comparison of the immigrant learners’ experiences with those of the host learners.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suid-Afrika het groot aantrekkingskrag vir ‘n aansienlike aantal vlugtelinge en immigrante vanaf armoede- en oorlog-geteisterde volkere in Afrika wat ‘n beter heenkome soek. Namate hierdie bevolking toeneem, kry immigrantleerders in skole in Suid-Afrika met ‘n unieke reeks uitdagings te doen (Vandeyar, 2010). Die instroming van vreemdelinge het die diversiteit in Suid-Afrikaanse klaskamers laat toeneem en stel uitdagings aan die buitelandse leerder sowel as aan die skool. Alhoewel verskeie studies reeds is onderneem om opvoedkundige faktore met betrekking tot die opvoeding van buitelandse leerders in Suid-Afrika aan te spreek, het die psigososiale ervarings van hierdie leerders nog nie die aandag van navorsers gekry nie. Die huidige studie verteenwoordig ‘n poging om die psigososiale ervarings van immigrantleerders in Suid-Afrika te ondersoek. Die teoretiese raamwerk van die studie is deur Erikson se psigososiale teorie gerig. Binne die raamwerk van Erikson se psigososiale teorie (Passer & Smith, 2008; Plotnik, 1993), word psigologiese faktore soos selfagting, self-identiteit, selfdoeltreffendheid en vertroue, en sosiale faktore soos taal, kultuur en verhoudings met die portuurgroep ondersoek in ‘n poging om die leerders se aanpassing aan die leer in ‘n omgewing met ‘n verskillende kultuur te verstaan.. ‘n Basiese kwalitatiewe navorsingsontwerp is gebruik. Vrywillige deelnemers is by ‘n primêre skool in die Wes-Kaap Provinsie van Suid-Afrika gewerf. Nege immigrantleerders van tussen ses en twaalf jaar oud wat reeds vir minstens een jaar in hul land van herkoms skoolgegaan het, is deur middel van ‘n doelgerigte steekproeftrekking vir deelname geïdentifiseer. Data is met behulp van die teken-en-vertel tegniek, onderhoude en waarneming ingesamel en met behulp van tematiese inhoudsontleding geanaliseer. Die terugkerende temas wat in die onderhoude na vore gekom het, het aangedui dat die immigrantleerders psigososiale uitdagings betreffende die aksent van die Engelse taal, stigting van vriendskappe en afknouery ondervind het. Hierdie uitdagings het hul selfvertroue, selfdoeltreffendheid en selfagting nadelig aangetas en hulle het geaardheid laat verander in die poging om by die eise van die omgewing aan te pas. Die verwagting is dat die bevindings van die studie ‘n bydrae tot die ontwikkeling van betekenisvolle ondersteuningstrategieë vir immigrantleerders sal lewer. Voorstelle wat gemaak word behels dat die skool ‘n beleid moet daarstel wat erkenning en aanvaarding van diversiteit in die skool bevorder. Daar is ‘n behoefte aan aktiwiteite wat diverse leerders binne die skool akkommodeer. Leerders behoort hul kulturele en morele waardes met mekaar te deel en mekaar daaroor in te lig. Aktiwiteite sou rolspel gedurende byeenkomste kon insluit, en verskillende weke sou daaraan toegewy kon word om die verskillende kulture van verskillende leerders in die skool te gedenk of te vier. Die gasheer leerders moet ook by hierdie aktiwiteite betrek word. Aanvaarding van die Circle of Courage filosofie, wat die gevoel van saamhorigheid, respek, ruimhartigheid en ywer omvat, behoort die beginpunt vir die skool en al die leerders te word. Om die Circle of Courage in te voer kan die hele skool help om mekaar te aanvaar en te verstaan. Die Circle of Courage is ‘n model vir bemagtiging; ‘n filosofie wat die ‘terugwinning van omgewings’ vir leerders ondersteun. Toekomstige studies behoort met behulp van ‘n kwantitatiewe benadering ondersoek in te stel na die geïdentifiseerde temas, en ook ‘n vergelyking van die ervarings van die immigrantleerders en gasheer leerders te tref.

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