An article about research partnerships in the South African rural education community, co-authored by four staff members of UP’s Faculty of Education, will appear in the January 2015 edition of the acclaimed international journal Teaching and Teacher Education.
The article, entitled “Taking note of obstacles research partners negotiate in long-term Higher Education community engagement partnerships” was co-written by Prof Liesel Ebersöhn, Dr Tilda Loots, Prof Irma Eloff and Prof. Ronél Ferreira. It describes the challenges that teachers negotiated in a rural school to remain partners in a long-term research project.
The researchers used the generative theory of rurality to theoretically locate the challenges of six years Participatory Reflection and Action (PRA) research with South African teachers in a rural school. It appeared from the thematic analysis that the teacher-participants faced many challenges that hindered their involvement in the research project. The two major challenges relate to contextual barriers and worklife demands. The contextual barriers include poverty and a lack of broad community involvement. Work-life demands that were obstacles for prolonged engagement include the long distances between spaces of work and home job-related responsibilities and time constraints, as well as partner expectations and attrition.
The study concluded that, although poverty was identified as a challenge to higher education-community engagement partnerships, it could also act as a motivating factor to involve potential partners in community engagement initiatives. It seemed pertinent from this study that resources ought to be clarified. In addition, collaboration and relationships should be leveraged to make synergy, common goals and mutually beneficial outcomes possible.
It would appear that, especially in an unequal and rural society, barriers may be expected in a long-term partnership between teachers and university researchers. However, it also appears that such barriers do not necessarily doom a partnership to collapse. The study found that teachers’ agency for continued commitment superseded their daily frustrations of especially limited time, expectations for monetary gain and feeling unsupported by school-community members.
Insights given in this article may contribute to knowledge about partnerships with marginalised-school partners. Knowing which obstacles teacherpartners had to overcome to continue in a project, may also inform the conceptualisation and implementation of enduring partnerships.