The promotion of holistic wellbeing in a school of the Deaf in South Africa
The Deaf population in South Africa is approximately 3.5 % of the population. Deaf children of school-going age can be accommodated in mainstream and full-service schools. However, the majority of these children are placed in the 47 schools for the Deaf across the country to ensure that they have opportunities to optimise their potential within a context that addresses their specific challenges. Research on the promotion of well-being has been focused mainly on individuals in contexts such as schools for the Deaf. However, recent literature indicates that the promotion of well-being should be holistic and expanded from a focus on individual well-being to well-being on multiple levels. These levels include individual, relational, and collective well-being. This study focused on a broader understanding of constructing enabling spaces in which holistic well-being is promoted in Schools for the Deaf. This is facilitated by application of a transformative approach that corresponds with the Deaf community's perception of themselves as a community with a specific culture, and not as disabled people. In this study, three separate but interconnected phases of study were conducted in the context of a bounded system, the Schools for the Deaf selected as an instrumental case study. The aim of the first phase of was a phenomenological investigation to understand the learners' current lived experiences of well-being and to develop an understanding of the ways in which they envision well-being in the future. A total of 45 learners across the phases were involved. Drawings, written statements, collages and essays were applied as methods to collect the data, followed by individual discussions with each learner. The data was analysed using visual and thematic analysis. In the second phase of the research, the focus was on obtaining an understanding of the experiences and perceptions of the staff in the contexts of a bounded system. In this phase of the study the teachers and other staff members employed at the school were asked to share their understanding of how well-being is currently promoted, and to share their ideas for the promotion of well-being in the future. A semi-structured focus group interview was conducted with 11 participants, comprising 7 teachers, 2 management staff and 2 teaching assistants. Participants created concept-maps in response to vignettes describing challenges faced by Deaf learners in South Africa. In-depth interviews were conducted with a representative of the management staff, a teacher, and house-parent in response to the same research questions. The aim of the third phase of the study was to establish a collective understanding of the way in which holistic well-being can be promoted in a School for the Deaf. The process encompassed the identification of current and anticipated activities that can be linked to the themes that has been identified in the previous phases. Data was collected using the world café method involving 50 participants. In response to a presentation of the themes from the first two phases of the study, the participants identified ten focus areas which they associate with the promotion of well-being in the School for the Deaf. They also identified current and anticipated activities that would promote well-being in each of these focus areas. The cumulative results, obtained through thematic analysis indicated that the promotion of well-being is experienced through the provision of opportunities for learning and development, connectedness to other people in the school and the broader community and when they experience care and support on a continuous basis. Guidelines were developed based on these findings to facilitate the promotion of holistic well-being in the School for the Deaf from a transformative perspective, in line with the culturally appropriate understanding of the Deaf as part of an alternative lifestyle and culture. A way to understand Deafness that facilitates the development of relationships and emotional security is to conceive of it as based on a sense of belonging to the Deaf community. Recommendations include the prioritising of the promotion of holistic well-being in policy as a way to address the challenges that the Deaf face in a more transformative manner. Further research on the promotion of holistic well-being in Schools for the Deaf should focus on a deeper understanding of how the implementation of the guidelines can be sustained. The role of the hostel and hostel staff in the promotion of holistic well-being should also be explored.
- Humanities