|dc.description.abstract||Unemployment is on the rise in South Africa. Learners who attend special schools are
marginalised in the labour market. As an educator in a special-needs school (‘special
school’), I noticed many learners returning to school to ask for my assistance to find
them jobs. This inspired me to ask: to what extent does the special school that they
attended prepare its learners for adulthood? What were the learners’ experiences and
how did the curriculum prepare them for work and socialising?
In order to answer this question, I used a case study methodology within an
interpretative paradigm using semi-structured interviews with three educators and 17
former learners of a special school which is referred to as School X. The study was
analysed through a theoretical framework that explored medical and social models of
disability, curriculum (especially the enacted curriculum) and transformative learning.
The analysis revealed that the learners’ transition to adulthood was problematic. They
experienced their schooling and subsequent employment prospects predominantly
through a medical model of disability which labelled and defined them, rather than
environmental factors, as the problem. This was evident in the enacted curriculum in
terms of content and educator responses, though there were some exceptions. Their
social life rarely developed beyond family connections. Their experiences of
contributing to transformative learning were often negative in that raised vocational
prospects on entry to the school resulted in disillusionment by the time they left.
Again there were exceptions, however, as some former learners highlighted individual
educator efforts to positively reinforce their self-esteem and thus keep their hopes up for
a brighter future.
Recommendations are made for special schools to have a more appropriately designed
curriculum that meets learners’ context specific needs. This curriculum both for the
technical and the academic learning areas must work in conjunction with work
programmes followed by industry so that these learners can fit into the work programme
when seeking employment. Lessons must be designed taking the learners’ learning pace
Society, and prospective employers in particular, must be conscientised about the merits
of the school and special schools in general. It is recommended that there be integration
between special schools and industry, and other mainstream schools. This would make
people aware of the capabilities of learners with special needs and highlight the fact that
they have a place and an equal chance in society.
The teachers who are involved with special education should have the appropriate
training so as to be able to understand the nature of these learners and deal with them in
an appropriate manner. Their training should be constantly upgraded in order to keep
abreast with the latest demands of industry and employment agencies.
Post-school follow-up support must be made available to former learners to offer them
career guidance and to afford them the opportunity to brush up on their technical skills
and familiarise themselves with the latest trends in industry.
All stereotyped thinking must be removed from the school, starting with co-ed
workshops rather than separate workshops for boys and girls. This would help to
remove the one aspect of negativity that appears within the hidden curriculum.||en