Racial integration and dynamics amongst occupational therapy students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Christopher, Chantal Juanita.
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Post democracy lecture venues within the Discipline of Occupational Therapy and campus at the University of KwaZulu-Natal display racial clustering where homogenous racial groups self-segregate and sit amongst those that look similar to themselves. This feature which, according to an extensive literature search occurs across the world appears resistant to change even within small occupational therapy classes which create extensive contact between students, with formal and informal opportunities to integrate. This descriptive qualitative study aimed to explore the occupational therapy student participants’ lived reality of racial integration and classroom dynamics from years 2, 3 and 4 in the context of studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The data collection tool was racially homogenous focus groups that yielded deep and rich discourse around an opening vignette and subsequent probes. Thematic analysis with a Critical Race Theory lens informed the data display and reduction process. Data yielded important findings that allude to contemporary racialisation amongst “born-free” occupational therapy students with strong convergence with international research and literature. Themes displayed students’ rationale behind ‘Othering’— the behaviour of creating Us/Them divisions along various factors; the racialising of space as a legacy of apartheid as well as in new ways and forms; varying promoters of social cohesion that they believe enhance integration as well as particular barriers within the academy and particularly the Discipline of Occupational Therapy. Recommendations allude to the need for pedagogical review, staff conscientisation around student lived reality, as well as the creation of a milieu of social cohesion.
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