The role of teachers in managing vulnerable children in school : evidence from one school.
This study sought to investigate the role of teachers in managing vulnerable children in school. The dawn of democracy in 1994 in South Africa meant that schools became multi- cultural and political, social and economic factors affected schools became. My experiences as a teacher for thirty- three years, together with observations made of challenges experienced by teachers in managing children with physical, emotional, psycho- social problems as well as forms of child- abuse and neglect inspired me to undertake this study. A further challenge for teachers were big class- sizes, lack of resources, lack of parental involvement and discipline in schools. In their quest to provide quality teaching and learning as stipulated by the South African School’s Act and Education White Paper 6, together with stipulations in the National Education Policy Act (76 of 1996) the role of teachers became more complex. It appears that in schools often the management team is “held responsible” for maintaining discipline and attending to children who present challenges as a result of various forms of vulnerability. It also emerged that Institution Level Support Teams were not as effective as they ought to be. In addition, managing vulnerable children was seen to be the role of the Life- Orientation teacher, in the absence of guidance counsellors, rather than the joint task of all teachers and stake- holders; this is the gap this study sought to make a contribution to. In this study, the experiences of teachers and the role of teachers in managing vulnerable children were explored. A Qualitative approach was adopted and the study was located in the interpretive paradigm. Individual and focus- group interviews were conducted. Findings suggest that teachers need to engage all stake-holders in a collegial way to assist in managing vulnerable children. Department of Education Guidelines in terms of screening, identification, assessment and support must be adhered to. Catering for needs of vulnerable children will improve quality of teaching and learning.