School of Social Sciences

UKZN Counselling Psychologists Graduate with Master’s Degrees

Intern counselling psychologists at UKZN Ms Claire Mondlana and Ms Sarah Jane O’Connell, graduated with Master’s degrees in Social Sciences.
Masters of Social Sciences graduates Ms Claire Mondlana and Ms Sarah Jane O’Connell.
Masters of Social Sciences graduates Ms Claire Mondlana and Ms Sarah Jane O’Connell.

Mondlana focused on the concept, practice and understanding of child adoption within indigenous communities, specifically that of the Zulu community. She explored how such a Western concept is practised within a cultural community in both its formal and informal practice of adopting a child while trying to understand some of the barriers and challenges associated with the formal (legal) process of adoption.

Her key findings indicate that the word adoption itself does not exist in the Zulu community and is seen as a foreign concept imposed on indigenous communities, and that the general understanding of what child adoption is for participants is an act of humanity and compassion and that formal/legal adoption tends to detract from cultural and traditional practices and beliefs for both the adopted child and the adoptive parents.

Mondlana hopes her research helps bring about an understanding of not just the communities conceptions but their ways of life, family structures and cultural perspectives. ‘The study opens up a world of different perspectives and ideas for those outside such communities but the most benefit is derived by those who participate because they get to tell their own stories and viewpoints about their lives, from their understanding and experiences rather than from someone else’s perspective,’ she said.

Mondlana has also just written her board exam with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and is now a registered counselling psychologist and is thrilled to be able to practise. ‘I would like to extend my knowledge on learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder within the African community with the aim of opening a centre to help support affected children and their parents,’ she said.

In her research, O’Connell explored experiences and perceptions of cyberbullying among high school students from an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) perspective.

Her findings suggest that although there are similarities between traditional bullying and cyberbullying, the latter appears to have a greater psychological impact on victims. Several factors associated with online activity appear to appeal to cyberbullies and they are subsequently motivated to participate in bullying online. Also, the cyber bystanders seem to play a passive role in the phenomenon, failing to intervene.

Results also revealed that there was a lack of parental monitoring (due to the perceived generation gap), and thus parent awareness talks and presentations were needed. ‘This will assist parents in becoming aware of technology and the different social media sites,’ said O’Çonnell. ‘Parents need to be educated on cyberbullying specifically, as this will allow them to teach their children the detrimental effects of bullying online and be aware of the different coping strategies and interventions available.’

She says schools need to become more active in intervening in traditional bullying and cyberbullying. ‘They need to take responsibility for bullying in schools and teachers should attend workshops to be more aware of the seriousness of the phenomenon. Increasing teachers’ awareness of bullying as well as placing emphasis on the significance of intervening may improve intervention. Schools should implement policies and frameworks to assist in creating a “safe” environment and minimising victimization.’

O’Connell, who has been offered a job as a psychologist/counsellor at St Johns Diocesan School for Girls in Pietermaritzburg next year, plans to pursue her PhD and do more research into cyberbullying.

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