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Supporting teaching and learning of refugee learners: a case study of school leaders in a primary school in Umlazi District.

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South Africa has received the influx of a number of refugees affected by wars, poverty, conflicts and prosecution in their countries. Refugee learners in the host country are affected by a number of challenges from before and after their migration. In South Africa the right to receive basic education is guaranteed in the Constitution under the Bill of Rights (Republic of South Africa, 1996a). This implies that all learners have the right to education, but supporting the teaching and learning of refugee learners is challenging for school leaders. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore school leaders’ experiences in supporting the teaching and learning of refugee learners. The aim of the study was to find out how school leaders support the teaching and learning of refugee learners in a primary school. It sought to find from the Principal, departmental heads and teacher leaders how they support teaching and learning. The findings of the study revealed that refugee learners have had gruesome experience of pre-migratory traumatic events such as witnessing conflicts, killings and torture, and suffering imprisonment, starvation, rape, sexual assault, and beatings. In this situation school leaders have a role to play in providing quality education for all learners in the school, despite the challenges they had experienced. To explain all this, the researcher drew on transformative leadership theory as the theoretical lens. The data were drawn from a qualitative and case study as a research design within the interpretivist paradigm. Data were generated using semi- structured interviews. Four school leaders selected in a school near the CBD in Durban in KwaZulu-Natal were participants. The findings of the study revealed that school leaders create a safe environment for refugee learners by ensuring that respecting and acknowledging learners’ cultural diversity is enshrined. It was also revealed that school leaders encounter challenges during teaching and learning such as the language barrier, inadequate support from refugee parents, large classes, adjusting to lesson plans, and assessment to accommodate refugee learners. It is recommended that the DBE should ensure that school leaders should receive more training in supporting the teaching and learning of refugee learners affected by traumatic events. In addition, professional learning communities should be introduced in schools with an influx of refugee learners, and school leaders should develop teachers to accomplish the teaching and learning of such learners.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.