Teacher! Teacher! Where are you? : an investigation of primary school learners' perceptions of educator absenteeism.
The primary purpose of this study was to investigate primary school learners’ perceptions of educator absenteeism. This study, which was located at a government primary school in the suburb of Kloof in the Ethekweni region, KwaZulu –Natal, attempted to answer the following key research questions: What are primary school learners’ perceptions of educator absenteeism and, how do they perceive educator absenteeism to be impacting on their holistic development in the classroom. A qualitative case study within the interpretivist paradigm which this study uses, was regarded an appropriate methodology to provide narrative accounts of children’s opinions, understandings, attitudes and perceptions of their world. Two data collection instruments, namely the focus group interview and the closeended, were used. The questionnaire was used to enhance the representivity of the study by involving a larger sample of the target group. A pilot study of the focus group interview was done to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the research questions, and to enhance the validity of the research. The learners’ responses guided the compilation of the close-ended questionnaire. Focus group interviews were conducted with each of the four Grade Six classes in the school which formed the target population of this study, and the questionnaire was randomly issued to fifteen (15) learners from each of the four Grade Six classes giving a total of 60 learners. Using the thematic analysis; and frequency counts the data suggests that learners perceive that educator absenteeism impacts negatively on learner development in the classroom with regards to issues such as learner interest and motivation, learner behaviour, learner-educator relationships, educator support and encouragement and classroom climate. The findings in this study concurred with other research studies, both qualitative and quantitative, in which more specific aspects of educator absence were investigated. Based on the findings of this research, the following recommendations were made: firstly, that learners must be meaningfully and constructively occupied during the socalled “free periods”, when the regular classroom educator is absent; secondly, a pool of qualified substitute educators to be established, to fill in for absentee educators so that the teaching and learning process is not disrupted and thirdly, the department of education should revisit its absentee and leave policy so as to apply stricter measures concerning educator absence in an effort to make educators more accountable for their attendance.