The role of house-parents in the promotion of learners' wellbeing in a residential school for the deaf in KwaZulu-Natal.
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This study explored the role that house-parents play in learners’ wellbeing promotion in a School for the Deaf. In this qualitative study, a sample of six house-parents and two senior management staff members employed in a residential school hostel at a School for the Deaf in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa were interviewed utilising a semi-structured interview schedule. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Three main themes emerged around the role that house-parents play in learners’ wellbeing promotion in the School for the Deaf. Sub-themes were developed under the main themes. The findings inclusive of house-parents and senior management staff suggest that house-parents play a significant role in learners’ wellbeing promotion in the school; they communicate in South African Sign Language (SASL), they offer emotional support to the learners and provide them with care. House parents also mediate between the biological parents of the D/deaf learners in their respective hostels because of communication barriers between hearing parents and their D/deaf children. Barriers to the promotion of wellbeing include the numerous duties the house-parents are required to perform including the multiple roles they play, the long working hours and the lack of integration between the house-parents and the teaching staff. Recommendations to the school include creating space for house-parents to voice their concerns in an un-confrontational setting. In this space, the house-parents can have the opportunity to have their voices heard within the hierarchical school structure where power differentials can otherwise limit freedom of expression. Team-building to foster relationship development across the staff is suggested. Developing and maintaining a grievance policy in line with Department of Education (DoE) specifications is suggested to ensure equitable grievance resolution for all staff.