Education policy reforms and the quality of rural education in South Africa : perceptions of Ndwedwe communities.
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The year 2016 marks 40 years since the June 16, 1976 student uprising where school children from Soweto marched against the introduction of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in schools. The police responded by firing the protesting students with teargas. This resulted in widespread protests across the country where students revolted against the government up until the following year. During that time there were 19 education departments serving different populations. After a protracted struggle, the Government of National Unity under the leadership of the African National Congress came into power in 1994. This saw the passing of the new constitution which included education in the bill of rights under section 29. This dissertation focused on determining how far the country has gone in improving the education of previously disadvantaged sectors of the population since 1994. The study was premised on that opening the doors of education to all would be the first step in leveling the playing field, given the institutionalized inequality in the education system under the previous dispensation. The main objective was to determine the extent to which rural schools are in a position to provide quality education. Specifically the study sought people’s perceptions about the quality of education in rural areas including policy and experiential factors that facilitate or inhibit the provision of quality education in rural areas. A qualitative research approach was adopted using a case study of Ndwedwe Education Circuit and thematic analysis was used to analyze data. The results show that most rural schools lack basic infrastructure such as running water; electricity; proper ablution facilities; computers; and libraries. Students are strongly aggrieved by shortage of teachers which leads to teachers teaching subjects they are not qualified for. Furthermore students in rural schools are demotivated and they don’t seem to have big aspirations for the future. These were identified as some of the factors that inhibit the provision of quality education. The dissertation concluded that the quality of education remains poor in most schools in rural areas. As a result these schools qualify as small and non-viable schools which have been conceded by the department of education as a category of schools that are unable to provide quality education in South Africa. The recommendation is that small and non-viable schools in rural areas be merged to create mega schools which could be better resourced and able to retain teachers and enhance performance.