Perceptions of inclusion and exclusion in a South African primary school.
Mpanza, Amanda Ntombifuthi.
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A qualitative study was conducted at a selected South African primary school with the aim of exploring teachers’ perceptions of the principle of inclusive education, with particular focus on the possible exclusion of learners with disabilities and/or special needs. The objectives of the study were to gather information about the underlying perceptions that teachers had with regards to inclusion and exclusion and to establish how these participating teachers perceived the inclusion and exclusion of learners in the selected study site. In essence, the study attempted to understand primary school teachers’ perceptions and how these perceptions might either promote or hinder acknowledgement of inclusion and exclusion in a South African school. The study was informed by Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of learning which was the lens through which the data and findings were viewed. Participating teachers’ authentic written narratives were used as the data collection tool and the data were thematically analysed. This analysis process was underpinned by findings in the literature as well as Vygotsky’s theory. Formulated research questions gave impetus to the study and guided the analysis of the data. The findings indicated that some negatively held perceptions of the inclusion principle in the study site still existed and that these perceptions would need to be addressed at school, district and national levels for a successful inclusion process. However, on a positive note it was found that the teachers demonstrated willingness to promote inclusive schooling. The study unveiled that teacher training is lacking in promoting an understanding of inclusive education, that the principle of inclusivity needs to be more actively supported by all relevant education structures, and that funding needs to be directed towards the implementation of inclusive education. The thesis is concluded by linking the findings with the research questions. In essence, it is argued that knowledge and understanding of disability still need to be promoted among all teachers and that policies need to be simplified for effective implementation. The teachers’ efforts to understand the principle of inclusion in the school under study, regardless of the factors that hindered the implementation of this educational policy, are acknowledged. However, an important conclusion is that intensive training on inclusive education needs to be conducted both pre-service and in-service for all parties involved. Recommendations are offered for future studies to further explore and address teachers’ perceptions of inclusivity in an attempt to eradicate any barriers that might hinder the inclusivity of learners with disabilities or special needs in the South African education system. It is acknowledged that, due to the limited scope and exploratory nature of the study, the results cannot be generalised to the entire South African teacher population. However, the reliability and trustworthiness of the findings pave the way for future studies to investigate policies and practices that will address the needs of the vast range of learners who have to navigate the education system, with particular reference to those learners who have disabilities and who encounter learning difficulties.