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Using literary texts to teach for social justice in a primary school language classroom.

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The purpose of this study was to understand how teachers use literary texts in primary school language classrooms to teach for social justice. It worked with teachers from two primary schools in the Zululand district - one school is an independent school, and the other a government school. Teachers who participated were English-language teachers in the intermediate and senior phases. This study made use of a qualitative approach and data was generated through document reviews, questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews. There were many socio-economic challenges identified by the teachers, many of which affect teaching and learning. Data generated from this research does not necessarily implicate these socio-economic challenges, nor the curriculum. Rather, it shines a spotlight on the challenge of teaching for social justice especially in Home Language English classrooms to non-native speakers of English. This is exacerbated by a seeming lack of interest in reading by learners, which makes the teaching of literary texts, never mind the engagement with social justice issues, a mammoth task. While teachers in this study have not been explicit in their teaching for social justice, they still regarded it as fundamental in examining the historical and present systems of privilege and domination, since they have direct implications not only on the locations of their schools, but the socio-economic challenges of the communities in which they work. Foremost in addressing the challenges that hinder foregrounding social justice in language classrooms is providing teachers with the resources necessary to teach literary texts. These would include, but not be limited to, a library, free access to books, and time for reading in the classroom. The study recommends more teachers be offered workshops on how to engage learners’ critical thinking when studying literary texts. Furthermore, this study advocates for a collaborative project for stakeholders, especially language teachers, to communicate and interact in advancing an emancipatory education that makes teaching for social justice a practical reality. It is hoped that research of this kind can help teachers and educational scholars move from a theorised understanding of social justice in education to a more practical application of it in primary school language classrooms.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.