The Catholic Institute of Education collaborated with CPLO on a discussion around rural education. The main speakers were Dr Phumzile Langa, Acting Director for Rural Education in the Department of Basic Education (DBE), and Veerle Dieltiens, a researcher at the Centre for Education Policy Development. Rural education, or schooling for learners in rural areas, has always been a huge challenge not only in South Africa, but also elsewhere in the world. A priority of the new directorate would be to clearly define the concept of ‘rural’. Dr Langa explained that the directorate would, amongst other things, create a database of rural schools by conducting audits and producing reports on rural school teachers; develop programmes aimed at teacher development in rural schools; ICT infra-structure and ICT skills for rural school teachers; look at schools providing scholar transport; rural education structures and stakeholder bodies at national/provincial levels; and national and provincial programmes currently being implemented to improve the quality of education in rural school.
Veerle Dieltiens (left) argued that there were several challenges to educating children living on farms: the long distances they have to travel to school, multi-grade classrooms, under-qualified teachers, and insufficient resources – all of which has led to poor quality education in farm schools. The DBE has addressed this challenge with a radical solution. It has closed farm schools down and moved many of the children into boarding schools. The department has rationalised this decision on the basis of children’s rights – that is, it is protecting the rights of children to access education, welfare and ‘personal development’. Veerle raised objections to the justification used by the DBE to build boarding schools on the basis that the policy violates children’s rights (to autonomy and to family life); it violates the rights of parents; and it violates the rights of communities to determine the values and norms children are raised with.
Moderator, Mduduzi Qwabe (Catholic Institute of Education, Researcher), speaker, Dr Phumzile Langa (Acting Director for Rural Education in the Department of Basic Education)