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The struggle for quality education in South Africa : the dynamics of integrating learner drifters from rural and township contexts into suburban schools.

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The year 1994, heralded as a watershed year that would ring changes in the lives of all South Africans has come and gone but poor quality education has remained stubbornly rooted mainly in the majority of rural and township schools. Twenty years into democracy the exodus from rural and township schools has gathered momentum as new problems arise to compound those that have been prevalent these past years. Rural and township based parents who patiently awaited change in the form of quality education became despondent and started the trek to suburban schools in their struggle to find better quality education for their children to give them a better chance in life. The study investigated what it took for integration of drifters to happen in suburban schools. Integration entails areas such as maintaining learner attainment, bringing parents on board and utilising social, intellectual and cultural capital that drifters bring with them. A two-pronged theoretical framework made up of Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems theory and the student integration model posited by Tinto (1987) is used as the lens through which the phenomenon is studied. In this regard the theoretical framework purposefully combines the development phases of the child as it interacts with the various environments and the phases of separation, transition and incorporation that drifters would undergo when engaging with their changed circumstances at the suburban school. This is a qualitative study located within the interpretative paradigm. It was a multiple- site case study that gathered data from principals, teachers, learners and parents in three suburban schools. Semi- structured interviews supported by observation were the data collection instruments employed. The study explored whether suburban schools sought to understand and integrate drifters instead of assimilating them. The study found that while learner attainment was prioritised, the three suburban schools chose acculturalisation and acclimatisation ahead of embracing diversity in their efforts to integrate drifters. My thesis is that the dynamic of integration of drifters at suburban schools is dependent on selfdeveloped mechanisms at each of the confluences that draw on and develop the diversity of cultural, social and intellectual capital that all stakeholders have to offer which embraces the broad transformation agenda.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2014.


Poor children -- Education -- South Africa -- KwaZulu-Natal., School integration -- South Africa -- KwaZulu-Natal., Education -- Social aspects -- South Africa -- KwaZulu-Natal., Theses -- Education.