Parental involvement in a rural residential special school : a case study.
Ngwenya, Priscilla Thulisile.
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This study investigates the work that is currently being done to promote contact between home and school at a residential school situated in a rural area of KwaZulu- Natal. The school serves primary school children with physical disabilities between the ages of five and seventeen years. The subjects in this study were twenty five parents, teachers, learners, and support staff. The research methodology was in the form of a qualitative case study. Individual interviews, focus group interviews, observation as well as document analysis were used to investigate the nature and extent of parental involvement, the areas in which parents participated, and how the school supported parents and the learners. The results revealed that the school acknowledges the value of parents a partners, and has initiated a parent involvement programme. Parents are involved in structures created by the school, namely, a parent teacher association, parent groups in the communities, learner adoption scheme. However, findings revealed that in a number of important areas parents are not equal partners. These are school governance, curriculum decisions regarding their children, choice of school placement, and admission and discharge of their children. An important finding was that in residential schools, because parents are not part of the immediate school community the concept of "parents as partners" is difficult to achieve. Most rural parents live great distances away from the school. Time, distance, work commitments, family commitments, and financial constraints make participation almost impossible. An implication of this study is that if residential schools continue to exist there is a need for the school to take cognisance of the various contextual factors that influence parental involvement in such a setting. Schools should find creative ways to overcome barriers that may exist. Schools need to be aware of recent policy developments regarding the rights of parents, for example, the South African Schools Act. Issues such as parent participation in school governance, their right to choice, and their rights regarding educational decisions on their children, enshrined in policy documents need to be, addressed collaboratively with parents. Another important implication is that policy makers need to review the role of large residential schools in meeting the educational needs of children with disabilities, in particular the long term goal of children gaining full citizenship in their communities.