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Teachers’ experiences of working with emotionally traumatised learners in a rural secondary school in KwaZulu-Natal.

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Emotional Child Trauma (ECT) is a psychological disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), which means ECT affects the learner’s brain, which is one of the most important resources needed for a healthy learning behaviour to occur. Learners in rural areas are three times more vulnerable to suffer from ECT compared to others from metropolitan cities due to factors like limited access to resources such as counselling facilities (Hall, 2015; Meinck, Cluver, Boyes & Ndhlovu, 2015). Therefore, this study’s aim was teachers’ experiences of working with emotionally traumatised learners in one of the secondary school in a KwaZulu-Natal rural context. The study aimed to gain in-depth understanding of challenges encountered by teachers of working with learners suffering from emotional child trauma and the strategies they use in mediating such challenges in a rural secondary school environment from teachers’ experiences of working with emotionally traumatised rural learners. The theory guiding the study was Attachment, self-Regulatory and Competency (ARC) theory by Kinniburgh and Dr. Blaustein. The study followed a qualitative approach within an interpretive paradigm. Inductive research approach was employed, which allowed participants and the researcher to construct knowledge about challenges of working with traumatised learners in a rural secondary school. Five participants were purposefully recruited because they had common ground in firsthand experience of working with emotionally traumatised learners in a school context as they are all involved in working with emotionally traumatised learners in different capacities based on their roles within the school. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews and document analysis were employed as data generating techniques. The study was analysed thematically. The findings revealed that ECT hampers attachment, resulting in learners developing insecure attachment patterns that impedes their ability to form relationships with their peers, teachers and school work. ECT also hampers self-regulation, which negatively affect learners’ ability to control their thoughts, emotions and behaviour that are needed for an array of learner activities, such as attention, planning or decision making that contributes to learning and good academic performance in a school environment. As a result, learner competency tends to diminish due to attachment and self-regulation learner’s psychological domains being hampered by ECT, which result to academic performance decline in a rural school learner suffering from ECT.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.