An exploration of the attitudes and expectations of educators towards learners who are deprived as a result of poverty.
The present study explored the attitudes and the expectations that educators have towards learners who are deprived by poverty. The influence of the educators' race and gender on these attitudes and expectations was explored as well as the relationship between indigent learners and their educators. The challenges that face educators on a daily basis, make teaching a particularly daunting task. In addition educators have the complex task of teaching learners who come from a diverse range of home backgrounds. These stressors combine to create a complicated learning environment. The interplay between home environmental risk factors, teacher support and learner achievement and performance is of utmost importance for eventual school success and a positive self-perception for the learner. This study was conducted by using a survey questionnaire which was completed by 53 educators (Indian and African), and semi-structured interviews with 12 indigent learners. The researcher was able to determine the emergent attitudes and expectations of educators according to the educator's race and gender. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 indigent learners to determine their relationship with their teachers and their self-perceptions. The responses to the interviews were qualitatively analysed. The findings of this study have indicated that generally, educators have positive attitudes towards indigent learners. They are supportive of these learners and try, in most instances, to plan lessons in a manner that would benefit the disadvantaged learner. With regard to race and gender, African male educators were the highest number that perceived indigent learners negatively, while African female educators appear to be the most sympathetic and held the least negative views on indigent learners. Results also indicated that the majority of educators had formed pre-conceived expectations about learner's abilities based on variables such as the home background, knowledge of siblings performances in school, dress and speech. Although African male educators had the most negative attitudes towards indigent learners, they (African male educators) also held the highest expectations of indigent learners as compared to Indian female educators who held the lowest expectations. This means that African male educators believe that indigent learners have the potential and perform relatively well in the classroom despite their poverty status. The results of the semi-structured interviews, which were qualitatively analysed, indicated that generally, the indigent learners who were interviewed, were happy at school, had friends and enjoyed a good relationship with their teachers. These learners appeared to always try hard with their schoolwork and held high career aspirations. Based on these findings, it appears that generally, the indigent learners who were interviewed had positive self-esteem based on positive relationships with their educators. The findings of this research were discussed in relation to previous findings from international literature. The study was concluded with recommendations to educators on monitoring and controlling expectance effects and bias on the achievement and social behaviour of learners.