South Africa

During September 2012, for the first time outside Europe, educators and learners in a local South African government school were given awards in recognition of their understanding of improving communication and self-esteem.

The process leading to achieving these awards involves producing a portfolio of evidence and undergoing peer and adult assessment. Rather than being based on a pass or fail system, the emphasis is on acknowledging the involvement of young people in a TA based learning process, with the focus of the accreditation on the process rather than the outcome. Another award was created called the TAPAL, which stands for Transactional Analysis Proficiency Award for Leaders, and a third award, TAPATE, stands for Transactional Analysis Proficiency Award for Teachers and Educators.

Those who recently achieved these awards in South Africa included five educators who received the TAPATE and two grade 11 learners (17 year olds) who received the TAPAL at Ned Doman High School in Athlone, South Africa. The students were leaders (often known as “prefects” in the SA school system) who chose to wear OK-OK badges to indicate a culture of mutual respect and leadership rather than the more common culture of Parent to Child. The awards to the educators and students were presented by Trudi Newton, TSTA (education), as a representative of the Institute of Developmental Transactional Analysis (IDTA). Another 15 educators and 10 learners received certificates for attending 6 weeks of transactional analysis workshops. “Ned Doman is the first school outside Europe, the first school in Africa, and the first high school in the world to achieve this recognition,” said Trudi. “In talking to the educators and learners, I was impressed by their passion and understanding of transactional analysis and their willingness to engage with positive psychological concepts in the classroom. Well done to everyone concerned!”

The involvement of transactional analysis at Ned Doman began when Stellenbosch University psychology doctoral student Sharon Johnson, who was studying stress and burnout among educators in high risk secondary schools, introduced TA there as one of three approaches to assist educators in coping with their major stressor: learner discipline. Her study took place in five high schools in the Cape Flats area near Cape Town, South Africa, an area of endemic poverty, high levels of unemployment, and high rates of crime and drug and gang activities. Sharon covered eight concepts in her introduction of TA: ego states, transactions, “I’m OK, You’re OK,” the drama triangle and the winner’s triangle, strokes, contracting, discounting and accounting, and steps to success. Teachers learned, for instance, to focus on inviting cooperation rather than rebellion in learners, disciplining in a positive way, inviting respect from learners, and maximizing learning rather than having conflict take up so much teaching time. Learners were encouraged to respect themselves and each other and were given tools to help them behave in a more positive way toward others in the classroom, on the playground, and in their personal lives with family and siblings.

The results of Sharon’s study became available in 2013 and a slide show she prepared to summarise them can be seen below:

pdf final slide show icp from sharon johnson

According to Ned Doman headteacher Gwynne Philander, the school is on a drive to improve not only matriculation rates but also learner behaviour. Matriculation is the SA school leaving qualification at 18 years old, and the pass rate at Ned Doman has increased from 33% to 75% over the past year. Mr. Philander added that the school will continue to introduce uplifting activities, such as educator workshops, learner empowerment, upgrading facilities, and greening the playgrounds in an effort to achieve all round excellence in challenging circumstances. “We see transactional analysis as playing a vital role in the positive development of our educators and learners,” he said. Mr. Philander will join a transactional analysis training group in 2013 to deepen his knowledge and use of TA.

The transactional analysis workshops for educators were prepared and run by Karen Pratt, PTSTA (education), and the workshops for learners were designed and facilitated by Sharon Johnson. The educators who received the TAPATE awards were Phumla Sono, Dawood Jaffer, Sharien Sadien, Gwynne Philander, and Buddy Matthews. The learners who received the TAPAL awards were Abdul Aziz and Aqueelah Abraham.

One of the teachers who achieved the award, Shireen, wrote a wonderful piece in her portfolio about the power of strokes. There were learners who had low self-esteem and were disruptive in her class, but when she began giving them positive strokes for what they did well, they became cooperative and more focused in their work. When one student had to appear before the school inspector, the whole class gave him strokes and encouraged him, after which he did well in his meeting.

Several other teachers realized that they often ended up in a drama triangle dynamic and did too much for their students (Rescued), thus keeping those learners dependent and feeling like Victims. By understanding levels of contracting and using contracts with their classes, they encouraged learners to take responsibility for deciding as a group what the consequences would be for not keeping the contract.


Photos of award ceremony in September 2012

Sharon Johnson (far right) in a workshop with 17-year-old TAPAL learners who are OK-OK leaders in their school (some holding ego state hoops). In the back row (left) is headmaster Gwynne Philander, who supported TA training at the school.
Educators and learners at Ned Doman High School who received Transactional Analysis Proficiency Awards and certificates of course attendance, with headmaster Gwynne Philander (third from left, seated), TA educators Trudi Newton (UK) and Karen Pratt (SA) (fourth and fifth from left, seated), and doctoral student Sharon Johnson (front)

TAPAL group getting attendance certificates in 2012


Karen Pratt is the National Coordinator for South Africa and can be contacted at: [email protected]

Sharon Johnson can be contacted at: [email protected]