The role of the teacher as a promoter of health in schools: conceptualisation and practical implications
The purpose of the study was to investigate how teachers conceptualise their roles as promoters of health in the schools. Schools are good settings for promoting health. Hence, there is a need to equip teachers with knowledge and skills to promote health in schools. The role of teachers as promoters of health in schools is probably the best thing schools ever needed to respond to the emotional, social, physical, and psychological needs of learners. However, teacher professional development in the field of health promotion in schools is lacking. The DBE in South Africa, in its efforts to prevent learners’ health risks and to promote health in schools, has introduced Life Orientation (LO)/Life Skills (LS) as a vehicle to promote health. Hence, Life Orientation/Life Skills teachers are vested with the responsibility to promote health through teaching. Research has indicated not only Life Orientation/Life Skills teachers should be promoters of health in schools. Nevertheless, it should be the whole school development where all members of staff as well the general staff members and stakeholders should endeavour to improve health of learners in schools. Teachers understanding of the five components of a HPS is still lacking; hence they only understand the activities within the HPS. The study is underpinned by two frameworks, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological framework as well as the HPS conceptual framework for understanding how the role of teachers as promoters of health could possibly be. In terms of gaining permission for access in schools the ethical standard such as informed consent, confidentiality and voluntary participation were adhered to. The research project was positioned in an interpretive research paradigm. The study used the exploratory qualitative research design. Purposive sampling approach was used to select samples of educators who were observed and later participated in the focus group interviews. For empirical research, six schools in the Gauteng Province were purposively selected because between 2006 and 2010 they were part of the HPS pilot schools project in the province and there were 20 participants who participated in the focus group interviews. Data analysis revealed that there is a gap in establishing what could be the role of teachers even when Life Orientation/Life Skills is used in schools. The results indicated that teachers’ understanding of their roles as promoters of health in schools is when they focus on teaching learners about hygiene, nutrition, body development, and HIV/AIDS. Each school has a feeding scheme program as well as a garden which is used to supplement nutrition. The following eight themes emerged from the study on the role of teachers as promoters of health in schools. They include build partnership with parents and the community to promote health; promote learner health and well-being; responsibility of school health services; to build capacity for teachers and learners; addressing factors which affect teaching and learning; support and sustainability of the promotion of health in schools; leadership and management of health promotion in schools and the need to promote the well-being of teachers. The study proposed a HPS teachers’ framework where teachers will be able to understand that systems and the concepts of HPS were essential for the promotion of health in schools. In conclusion, teachers have the potential to promote health in schools. Therefore, it is essential for teachers to be supported to be promoters of health in schools.
- Education 
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