Meaning and experience of death among selected South African primary school learners

  • Khethiwe Duma
  • Dumisani Nzima
  • Sumeshni Govender
Keywords: Death, dying, grief, bereavement, programme implementation


This study explored primary school learner’s meaning and experience of death. Although a few international studies explore this issue, it was deemed useful to evaluate the perceptions of South African children. The participants of the current study were between the ages of seven and twelve years. Individual, structured interviews were conducted on this cross-sectional population. The interviews contained questions adapted from
Koocher’s (2000) research in this area, and responses were analysed by means of traditional content analysis. It was found that children had a basic understanding of death concepts by the age of approximately seven years old and that the youngest age group of children possess an awareness of death, but tend to view it as reversible and not final. An understanding of the finality of death does eventually emerge. In general, the participants’
responses showed a close relationship between stages of cognitive development and how learners reason about death.

Keywords: Death, dying, grief, bereavement, programme implementation


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1596-9231