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Title: The educational and social inclusion of children and youth at risk: A case study of a child and youth care centre in the Western Cape, South Africa
Authors: Balie, Lorna Yolande 
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Abstract: There exists a variety of explanations for why children and youth become ‘at risk’ of school disengagement, violent victimisation, institutionalisation (including imprisonment) and premature mortality (Abrams & Terry, 2014). However, few explanations help to understand how children and youth at risk can be better included within education and society, how educational and social inclusion programmes for children and youth at risk can improve, or where it is best placed to provide such interventions or programmes. Using an ecological and multi-dimensional approach, the current study utilised a Western Cape residential care institution for children and youth at risk as a case study by which to conceptually and vividly show the connections between the backgrounds of South African children/youths that are at risk, the cultures and practices of residential institutions in accommodating the needs of children and youth, and the teaching approaches that are adopted within the institution to socially and educationally include learners under their charge. The main purpose of this is to highlight the notable complexities in addressing the short-term and long-term individual needs of children and youth ‘at risk’ - both within institutions and outside institutions once they are discharged - and the contradictory challenges that are attached to structural and relational forms of risk and risk-taking. The study questions whether institutions and programmes can be expected to address social and structural dimensions of inclusion and human connection that inevitably and invariably fall outside of their educational scope and capabilities and seeks to understand what this means for the conceptualisation of issues of inclusion within the educational realm in South Africa. The main research question that arises from this research is: In what ways are care of and education for children and youth at risk provided by a child and youth care centre in order to promote their educational and social inclusion? This question is further divided into three research subsidiary questions which are a) What are the risk factors experienced by youth, found in the previous institution(s), the family, the communities/neighbourhoods and among their peers that contribute to their being referred to the child and youth care centre? b) How do the child and youth care centre’s rules, norms and values promote the social inclusion of children and youth at risk? and c) How do the teachers’ teaching approaches promote the educational inclusion of children and youth at risk? In order to answer these questions, this study developed a case study of a child and youth care centre located in the Western Cape in order to understand how it works towards the educational and social inclusion of children and youth at risk. The following data was therefore collected at the institution through: one focus group with five teachers; in-depth semi-structured interviews with nine teachers, seven youths, one principal, one social worker, one educational psychologist, one occupational therapist, three childcare workers, and two residential care workers; observations of classes and the institutional environment; and institutional documents. In addition to data collected at the institution, three experts (in their own respective fields which are Inclusive Education, Gangs and Teacher Wellness at the institution in question) and three government officials from the Western Cape Education Department were interviewed. The study found that risk and risk taking was tied to a variety of social and institutional factors that shaped how vulnerable children and youth were socially included or excluded within society and within schools, and that led to their needs being addressed through residential care. The findings reveal that the factors that contribute towards youth being at high risk of the outcomes mentioned earlier include the lack of safety and security in schools, school cultures that are alienating, once disengaged from school children and youth experience many non-normative transfers between different kinds of institutions, domestic and gang violence, and unsafe and under-resourced neighbourhoods. The study further found that the child and youth care centre promotes social inclusion through its rules, norms and values by providing protection for children and youth (aided by legal and policy documents), by advocating and embedding the Circle of Courage in its programmes, and by promoting the values of reintegration into the family and community, and the values of care and family. These efforts, however, did not coalesce in ways that could fundamentally change how youth saw themselves or their risk taking in relation to their subsequent lives. Furthermore, this view was reinforced by data that showed that educational inclusion is promoted by children and youth forming emotional attachments to their teachers, through teachers using sensitive and appropriate teaching methods, and implementing an adapted curriculum and structured, relational and developmental disciplinary techniques. These findings reveal that the child and youth care centre is able to promote educational and social inclusion in the short term but is unable translate these efforts into durable life lessons to prepare youth adequately for life outside the institution and long-term social inclusion, owing to the structural (De Finney et al., 2011) and relational nature of risk, which is beyond the scope and capabilities of the institution. This informed the extent to which youth could be ‘included’ and de-stigmatised’. Recommendations include the DBE equipping schools and teachers adequately to deliver the CAPS curriculum especially for the needs of children and youth at risk; the Provincial Education Department providing schools with educational psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists to address the therapeutic and affective needs of children and youth, the provision of mentors and child and youth care workers to support teaching and learning; teacher trainers equipping teachers with appropriate and effective disciplinary techniques; child and youth care centres (schools and intervention facilities) applying developmental, empowering and inclusive philosophies to address emotional and behavioural problems among children and youth; a more intense focus on academic achievement; and more inclusive school cultures. The study’s key contribution is to show how conceptualisations, processes, and practices of educational inclusion play out in relation to the institutional programmes of one Western Cape child and youth care centre, and how the views, and professional practices of a variety of professional role-players inform the ways in which the needs of children and youth that are deemed to be ‘at risk’ are addressed and provided for. This reveals the complex intersection of home, community, geographical space, institution, legal framework, educational programme, policy architecture, and policy objective in determining how risk and educational inclusion is understood, and how it is addressed within society and within the educational realm. It also highlights the complexity, and the structural and relational nature of risk experienced by children and youth in marginalised communities in contemporary South Africa.
Description: Thesis (DEd)--Cape Peninsula University of Technology, 2019
Appears in Collections:Education - Doctoral Degrees

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