A social psychological perspective on schooling for migrant children: A case within a public secondary school in South Africa

Keywords: School readiness, migrant children, South Africa, language barriers, cultural diversity


The conceptualisation of school readiness is often based on ‘ideal children’ in ‘ideal situations’. However, in determining the readiness level of children who are considered vulnerable, it is important to understand the lived experiences of these children. In this study, migrant children (especially undocumented ones) within the borders of South Africa are the focus: they are considered to be vulnerable due to a legal contradiction that exists between the right to basic education and the South African Immigration Act of 2002. The study employed a qualitative case study design to investigate, using a psychosocial perspective, the school readiness of migrant children in a Public Secondary School in Krugersdorp, South Africa. It attempts to establish what school readiness means for teachers and parents, in the context of both the psychological and social development of migrant children in South Africa. Participants were 7 teachers and 6 parents of migrant children in the School. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews and analysed using a constant comparative method of qualitative analysis within a grounded theory approach. The findings are that challenges affecting migrant children’s readiness for school include the lack of documentation; language barriers and an inability to continue schooling. Strategies are identified to address the challenges, including the school liaising with the Department of Home Affairs and the introduction of cultural diversity within the school. From the findings, it is evident that the South African government and Department of Basic Education must recognise the specific challenges of vulnerable groups to determine what school readiness means for them and assist them as far as possible.

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