Children's conception of spirituality and morality : narratives of eight Grade 3 learners.
Influenced by debates from the paradigm of New Childhood Studies and the sociology of childhood, the epistemological and ontological stance of this study was that children are individuals in their own right, and active social beings who are able to construct and make meanings of events and issues in their lives. The study was also framed by debates from the sub-field of ‘Children’s Geographies’ that enabled the analysis of the meanings children assigned to experiences of spirituality and morality in various experiential spaces and places of their lives. In essence, the study was about exploring children’s conceptions of spirituality and morality and mapped out the spaces and places of spirituality and morality in relation to young children. This was a qualitative case study conducted at one primary school situated in an urban township in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Participants in the study were eight (8) Grade three learners (three male; five female), aged between seven (7) and 11 years. The various creative participatory research techniques utilised in the study to produce data were found to be the most appropriate when engaging with child participants. These included children’s drawings, vignettes, or scenarios that contained a moral dilemma viz. conversation with a picture and a letter to God. A justice orientation was strongly evident in the children’s responses to the two scenarios as children clearly had a sense of right and wrong. Data revealed that children reason in terms of the norms they have been socialised to value, for example, justice. Morality is also interpreted as a goal of pleasing others by acting as a good person in society thus its stands to reason that morality is external to children. However, there was evidence that some reason at a more advanced level beyond the stage of obedience and punishment when they focused on themselves as members of a society or community i.e. maintaining the social order. The focus of the children was on obeying laws and maintaining social order and as in the case of the respondents of the study, keeping the school and community safe. The ethics of care was evident in the responses of the children such as fairness, compassion, empathy, care for the welfare of others, protection from physical and emotional harm and hurt. The study did not examine gender differences in the care orientation of the participants.