Patterns of interaction among school children in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa.
South Africa’s Apartheid legislation divided ‘races’ and ultimately dictated interactions between people. Post-Apartheid children have been born into a society that focuses on the importance of tolerance, diversity and interaction across ‘race’ lines. The schooling system is one such platform that may encourage interaction among children. This study explores the patterns that emerge in the interaction between children of different ‘races’. Ethnographic observation using schedules of interaction was used to investigate patterns of interaction. To focus the observation, a sample of seven ‘Indian’ children, aged between 9-10 years were observed, paying particular attention to their interactions with children around them in various contexts such as structured/formal lessons, unstructured lessons and free time. The research data was then qualitatively analysed using ethnographic descriptions and content analysis. The study found that patterns of (de) racialised interaction between children are affected by: 1) the degree of structure in the context; 2) Gender; 3) Language. Authority figures can facilitate interaction by organising the space in particular ways, increasing cooperation between children on particular tasks. However, most interaction across ‘races’ occurs in unstructured lessons. The form of boys play tends to be physical and facilitates collective play without respect to ‘race’. Girls play in more dependent on talk and given that the children in the study speak different mother tongues, this leads to separate groups forming during playtime. The results of this study also highlight the importance of a renewed focus on contexts, activities and a revisit to the multilingual schools policy to ensure that opportunities for interaction between ‘race’ lines are increased and all barriers to interaction are reduced.