Preparation of adolescent learners with down syndrome in cape metropole schools, South Africa, for transition to work
Muvua, Ancent Muli
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Transition from school to work entails the preparation, education and training of learners, leading to their placement in desired work situations. The right of children with disabilities to be included in ordinary schools and employment thereafter is being advocated internationally. However, despite this, preparation for transition from school to work still poses a major challenge for many learners with intellectual disabilities. The aim of this study was to explore how schools in the Cape Metropole, South Africa, are preparing adolescent learners with Down syndrome for the transition to work. The objectives of the study were to explore: school policies related to the transition process; schools’ physical and psychosocial environments; the link between schools and the community; learners’ acquisition of skills and education support services. Collaborative qualitative research design was used with a partnership between the researcher and the Western Cape Down Syndrome Association. The participants included two teachers with experience of teaching learners with intellectual disabilities, two parents of adolescent learners with Down syndrome, ten participants with Down syndrome, amongst them, two adolescent youths in post school training who were identified in this study as role models and eight learners at school. As learners with Down syndrome might not be fluent in verbal communication, an alternative research strategy, photovoice was used. Photovoice (photography) was used a means of accessing learners’ views of the transition planning and making these views accessible to others. The eight schoolgoing learners were given cameras and requested to take photographs of things and experiences that helped to prepare them for work. The learners were then interviewed. Subsequently adults with Down syndrome (role models), who were in post school training, were also interviewed. Finally, parents and teachers were interviewed. Data analysis included translating, transcribing of raw data from the recorded tapes and content analysis by using codes and identifying themes. The synthesis of the findings from all the participants yielded multiple themes including: education support services: acquisition of skills: supportive relationships; home, community, classroom and school environments; and dreams of the participants. Ethical considerations included getting permission from the University of the Western Cape, the Western Cape Education Department, the principals of the schools, the participants and their parents/guardians. The study has illustrated that, given opportunities and proper preparation in school, adolescent learners with Down syndrome have the potential to become active members of society. For better outcomes of the transition planning process, there is need for: teachers to work closely with the parents; increased government support; job coaches and class assistants in the schools and a greater collaboration between government departments.