Understanding high school teachers' perceptions of the factors influencing academic success of learners in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
The value of schools as systems for encouraging positive adaptation and development has gained recognition in resilience research. As key role players in the school environment, teachers play a central role in fostering resilience among learners. Further, the context of the school environment provides understanding into the many systems in which learners are situated which encourage or hinder the development of resilience strategies. Learners in South Africa face many barriers in attempting to access education. These challenges are especially prevalent in rural areas, where poverty, unemployment and poor health add an extra burden on learners and teachers. Despite this, there are learners who are able to achieve academic success. They are in essence resilient. This study aimed to understand the perceptions of teachers of the factors which influence learner success in South Africa from a strengths perspective. A qualitative approach and purposive sampling were employed to conduct two focus groups with teachers from two rural high schools in KwaZulu-Natal. The Participlan method was used to conduct the focus groups as it allowed the groups’ control over organising main themes and ideas. Data was analysed using thematic analysis and concepts from resilience theory and the Bio-ecological Systems Theory were used to organise and understand the findings. The results indicated that the teachers have a contextual view of the factors influencing learner success and they underemphasise the role of the individual. The key role of the teacher and the school as a site for fostering resilience was also evident. Suggestions for further research include exploring the effectiveness of reactive strategies developed by the participants and encouraging the development of characteristics found in resilient schools.