Distance Education as a vehicle for the professional development of carers: the case of the Institute of Distance Education, University of Swaziland

Sharayi Chakanyuka


The Certificate in Psychosocial support was initiated by the Regional Psychosocial Initiative (REPSSI) after observing that in most Sothern African countries there were few opportunities for carers to get formal training. REPSSI offered the programme in eight countries as a pilot project centrally by the University of KwaZulu-Natal. After the pilot phase, the University of Swaziland offered the programme as one of its distance education programmes, retaining the delivery approach. This paper explores carers’ perceptions of the programme’s benefits and challenges for themselves and children in their care. The study used qualitative methodology to explore Manzini learner carers’ perceptions of the distance education programme. Data was collected through an open ended questionnaire, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. Results show that the distance education programme served as an effective vehicle for the professional development of learner carers in that there was positive development in learner carers’ knowledge levels, attitudes and general disposition to caring. In addition, children in their care indicated that the level of care they were receiving was much higher. However, while the programme targets carers, because of the large numbers of applications, the university is recruiting even people who are not carers as long as they hold the required qualifications. This has left out first line carers who do not have the secondary school qualifications yet are the ones who need this training most. The certificate programme clearly demonstrates that distance education can be used successfully to create space for the professional development of carers while they carry on with their caring responsibilities.


carers, vulnerable children, psychosocial support, distance education

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