Research published on challenges in South Africa’s rural education

Posted on November 12, 2014

An article about research partnerships in the South African rural education community, co-authored by four staff members in the Faculty of Education of the University of Pretoria (UP), will appear in the January 2015 edition of the acclaimed 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 and thematic analysis of six years' Participatory Reflection and Action (PRA) data with South African teachers in a rural school.

Significant findings

It appeared from the thematic analysis that the teacher-participants faced many challenges which hindered their involvement in the research project. The two major challenges relate to contextual barriers, and work-life 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 The study found that teachers' agency for continued commitment superseded their daily frustrations of especially limited time, expectations for monetary gain and feeling unsupported by school-community members.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 teacher-partners had to overcome to continue in a project, may also inform the conceptualisation and implementation of enduring partnerships.


- Author Petronel Fourie

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