SA Journal of Education, Vol 40, No 1 (2020)

Prevalence of motor skill impairment among Grade R learners in the West Coast District of South Africa

Janke van der Walt, Nicola A Plastow, Marianne Unger


A high prevalence of medical conditions affects the typical motor development of learners in the West Coast District of South Africa. Given the strong correlation between motor skill performance and academic achievement, this study aimed to determine the prevalence of motor skill impairment among Grade R learners (5–7-year olds) enrolled in public schools in the area. Multistage cluster sampling was used to identify 6 schools from which all Grade R learners were invited to participate. Following ethical approval, 138 learners’ gross and fine motor skills were assessed using the Movement Assessment Battery for Children 2nd edition (M-ABC2). Results indicate that the prevalence of significant motor skill impairment in this region was high at 14.5%, and that the prevalence of children with manual dexterity difficulties was very high, at 24.6% (i.e. scores below the 15th percentile of the M-ABC2) when compared to global statistics, yet comparable to countries with a similar socio-economic structure. The prevalence of children with balance difficulties was 18.1%, while the prevalence of children with difficulties in aiming and catching was low at 4.3%. Pearson’s correlation indicates that gender (male), a lack of playground equipment and low weight/height are factors associated with learners’ poor manual dexterity, while poor manual dexterity and balance skills were associated with learners attending no-fee schools. The study confirms that motor skill difficulties are a significant problem in this region and calls for further research to address the problem.

ORCiD iDs of authors:
Janke van der Walt -
Nicola A Plastow -
Marianne Unger -

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