Investigating educators' experiences of teaching learners who have barries to learning at a public secondary school in Newlands West.
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The South African government underwent numerous changes since the 1994 democratic elections and the integral focus was placed on the Department of Education, among other things. In an attempt to overcome the inequalities citizens faced, an insistent and peremptory request was made for the provision of quality education. The implementation of the policy document White Paper 6: Special Needs Education (Department of Education, 2001a) became part of the education system’s nationwide response in addressing previous injustices. The inclusion of learners who face barriers to learning was of paramount importance. Years after the implementation of inclusive education, educators were faced with multifarious challenges that hindered its success and were in need of the necessary support, guidance and assistance in an attempt to overcome these challenges. This raises much concern regarding the quality of education in the country. In that view, this study sought to understand the experiences of educators who teach learners who face different challenges in their learning, as well as the types of support, guidance and assistance needed. The focus of this study was embedded in the experiences of educators; the study thus adopted a case study, located within the interpretive approach. The study embraced the qualitative research design as it aimed at attaining in-depth and descriptive experiences of individual participants. The sample size consisted of 5 educators who participated in one on one semi-structured interviews, sharing their experiences of teaching learners with barriers to learning. The respondents also engaged in a focus group discussion which also entailed a photo language activity relating to the implementation of inclusive education and their experiences. Classroom observations also formed part of the data collection methods which yielded rich relevant data pertaining to the topic. The collected data were then analysed thematically, followed by the viewing of the data through the lens of the social constructivism theory and the systems theory. The results of the study indicated that educators experienced a vast array of challenges in teaching learners with barriers to learning; these ranged from socio-economic (violence, orphans, poverty), environmental to educational difficulties. The findings also revealed that educators are in need of professional development and training to achieve and reach the expectations stipulated by the Department of Basic Education. Specific assistance is required by educators in the areas of planning lessons, variant teaching styles and the setting of assessments that meet the diverse learner needs. Furthermore, the collaboration of various sectors was seen as mandatory: professional services such as psychologists, the Department of Education, improved funding, clear and updated policies and issues of overcrowded classes need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Overall, the challenges experienced by the educators seem to be a major hindrance to the success of the inclusive education as there are many unfolding gaps between policy and practice, which obviously demand attention. Based on the findings of the study, it was therefore recommended that educators require more empowerment to fulfil their roles with regard to the knowledge of Inclusive Education. There is a need for active engagement of all stakeholders (parents, teachers, learners, department oficials and SGB). Educators are in need of assistance in planning of lessons, teaching styles and assessments. The need for the active involvement of counsellors, psychologists and social workers in assisting with learners who have barriers to learning has become greater. Overcrowded classes to be relooked at as the effects of overcrowded classes are far reaching. A strategic plan of dealing with disruptive learner behaviours is also needed. The call for collaboration with seniors is said to be mandatory. Educators require training to meet the expectations stipulated in the policy of Inclusive Education.The final recommendation made by this study eludes itself to funding to improve the infrastructure, facilities, resources and services to meet the needs of diverse learner populations.