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A participatory action research project to improve school readiness in rural Grade R classes in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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School readiness in the South African context has multiple complex facets to consider. Many children in South Africa are entering school not ready to learn for a whole range of reasons, sometimes resulting in low levels of reading, learning delays and difficulties and slow progress in their whole development. Long lasting consequences include an inability to break out of the cycle of poverty because of factors contributing to a large percentage of South African children not getting the opportunity to thrive and learn in an optimal environment. Teaching in South Africa therefore has many problems and challenges. Thinking of ways for transforming our South African systems to support all our children reaching their potential is challenging in itself. With our historical past still drenched in Apartheid and power dynamics so much needs to be taken into consideration when thinking about approaches to enable change. This thesis looks at what it means to enable change in South Africa with such a past and such a current situation for many of our children. Participation is explored through a rich, critically reflective process, bringing consciousness to this topic through creating opportunities for change that come from the ground up, by supporting educational development in not only a sustainable way, but one that also engages with pertinent issues of power in our South African context. This study is about the deep, ground level learning that came from participating within a participatory action research project that was planned within a critical paradigm. It is deeply embedded in a critically self-reflective approach using an experiential cyclical way of learning, to activate and facilitate change and development. The PAR team comprised of a mixture of pre-school, Grade R and Grade 1 teachers who, together with myself, sought ways to improve school readiness of children in their particular disadvantaged rural school setting. The overall findings include a systematic way of improving practice in such spaces, highlighting the importance of self-awareness and building relationships.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.