COVID-19 pandemic lockdown impact on parity of participation for students with mental health challenges in higher education
Despite post-apartheid South Africa’s human rights-based education policies, a range of practices, including curriculum design and teaching strategies, continue to disproportionately disadvantage students with disabilities (SWDs). The disadvantage of SWDs that are caused by these practices, results in low access, throughput, and success rates for this group. Recently the situation has been exacerbated by many South African universities' recourse to emergency remote online learning as a result of the effects of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. The remote learning strategy disadvantaged SWDs, particularly those with invisible disabilities such as mental health challenges, whose voices, as evidenced by this study, continue to be overlooked. The purpose of this study was to explore how SWDs are experiencing emergency remote online learning during the COVID-19 lockdown. Online self-administered questionnaires were used to collect data from five postgraduate students with mental health challenges at one historically white university in South Africa. Data were coded and analysed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) method of inductive and deductive thematic analysis, and Nancy Fraser’s approach to social justice was used as a theoretical lens. The study identified numerous barriers that highlight the under-preparedness of the sampled university in providing equal educational opportunities, with students with mental health challenges as well as those with other types of invisible disabilities being disproportionately affected. This study has added new knowledge by identifying both new challenges and opportunities for emergency remote online learning for students with mental health challenges. Thus, the study calls for universities to achieve parity of participation for students with mental health challenges by consulting with these students if higher education institutions (HEIs) are to effectively support this group to overcome the identified emergency remote online learning-oriented barriers.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the South
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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