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Traditional healing in KwaZulu-Natal Province : a study of University students’ assessment, perceptions and attitudes.

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Traditional healing practices are widely used by Black South Africans from different socio-economic backgrounds. These practices are highly esteemed by most, while frowned upon by others. Scholars have engaged in various debates about the efficacy of traditional healing practices and some have advocated for their inclusion in mainstream health care. It is argued that merging Western forms of healing with African traditional healing practices could provide optimal health care for African people as theAfrican cosmology of health and illness strongly influences help-seeking patterns among South Africans. This study examined University of KwaZulu-Natal students’assessment of, and perceptions and attitudes towards, traditional healing practices in the province.It aimed to determine whether they would partake in these practices on their own or in combination with other forms of healing. Ten students on the University’s Pietermaritzburg campus participated in the study and were engaged in individual interviews and a focus group discussion.They were selected using non-probability convenience sampling as university students were easy to access and willing to participate in the study.Black studentswere considered relevant to respond to the research questionsas they have experience of and opinions on traditional healing practices in KwaZulu-Natal province. The results showed that university students were discontent with certain aspects of African traditional healing practices, although they appear willing tocontinue to resort to such practices when the need arises. Key aspects of traditional healing practices that caused student discontent includedthe on-goingstigma attached to such practices,the alleged incompetence of some practitioners,and the overall inefficacy of the practice.Given that some of the participants describedtraditional healing practices in a pejorative manner, this suggests that students have an unfavourable view of such practices.It was found thatthese negative attitudes were influenced by education, urban living and adherence to Western religious convictions. The study further revealed that the mainconcerns raised by university students related to concerns aboutsafety and the inefficacy of some traditional healing practices. Constructions of traditional healing practices and the discourses shared among university students served to position traditional healing as inferior to alternative healing practices and further maintain negative views of such practices. However, since the sample for this study was small and the study design was qualitative, no conclusive negative generalization against African traditional healing practices is suggested. Further research is required to corroborate the negative outlook portrayed by the study participants.


Master of Social Science in Clinical Psychology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2016.