Title page for ETD etd-04292009-130250

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Karvelas, Nic
Email nikok@global.co.za
URN etd-04292009-130250
Document Title Exploring the human rights understandings of educators
Degree MEd
Department Education Management and Policy Studies
Advisor Name Title
Dr F J Nieuwenhuis Supervisor
  • values
  • dignity
  • culture
  • equality
  • traditions
  • religion
  • democratic values
  • human rights
  • understanding
  • freedom
Date 2007-04-17
Availability unrestricted

The Bill of Rights (Constitution of the RSA, Act No. 108 of 1996) is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in the country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. As a legal instrument the Bill of Rights is open to differences in interpretation and understanding. The understanding and interpretation that educators attach to the rights contained in the Bill of Rights is of vital importance as it will determine how the upcoming generation will interpret and give meaning to these rights.

The purpose of this study was to explore the human rights understanding of the educators at a Catholic school, and then to determine whether the understanding that these educators have about human rights concurs with the existing literature and where applicable, judgements of the Constitutional Court.

A case study approach was undertaken with eight primary school educators at the school and using the evidence, collected from interviews conducted, the study found that as much as the understanding of the participants was generally in line with the literature and the Constitutional Court judgments, their understanding is largely theoretically based.

As much as the participants have a clear understanding of the different rights, are able to attach meaning that is in line with universal definitions and does not transgress the legal bounds, the emergence of the nuanced opinions indicates that this understanding is limited by the values, traditions and societal norms that the participants associate themselves with and could lead to intolerance.

In the final analysis, human rights and its associated concepts is defined and understood by individuals and groups of people in different ways. This understanding of human rights is intrinsically linked to culture, values, norms and societal perceptions. As a result, the understanding of this concept will differ from person to person and culture to culture.

It is however possible that in many instances these different understandings are no more than different cultural and religious expressions of the same fundamental principles. As long as these different cultural and religious practises remain within the boundaries of the law, are not imposed on others and do not lead to intolerance, they should be respected and allowed to continue. These differences in interpretation, understanding and practise not only contribute to the ongoing debate around human rights and its associated concepts but in addition, contribute to the nurturing of democracy and freedom in South Africa.

Where these differences in understanding, interpretation and practise become a contentious issue that cannot be resolved by the parties independently, as was the case in Christian Education SA v Minister of Education-CCT 4/00, the Constitutional Court can be approached in order to test the different understandings / interpretations and make an appropriate ruling on the matter.

University of Pretoria 2006


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