Developing empathetic skills among teachers and learners in high schools in Tshwane: an inter-generational approach involving people with dementia
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This article describes the implementation and outcomes of an experiential learning approach to facilitate the development of empathetic skills among teachers and learners at two high schools in Tshwane, South Africa. An inter-generational training programme, the Memory Bridge Initiative (MBI), aimed at exposing participants to interactions with older persons with irreversible dementia, was used as a means to develop empathetic skills. Programmes such as MBI have the potential to develop empathetic skills and to cultivate interpersonal and personal skills among the learners and the teachers. Seven learners and six teachers, recruited through non-probability sampling, from two high schools in Tshwane participated in the three-and-a-half-day training programme which serves as the basic training to equip teachers and learners for the implementation of the programme in their respective schools. Focus-group discussions were conducted with the teachers and the learners separately before and after exposure to the MBI programme. Both learners and teachers agreed that the programme contributed to their interpersonal and personal development. Learners also adopted a more positive way of perceiving older persons and people with Alzheimer’s disease. It is recommended that inter-generational programmes should be implemented in more high school settings to determine best practices to develop empathetic skills among learners. Inter-generational programmes could minimise the isolation of older persons with dementia and equip the youth with transferrable skills to educational and work settings.