Document Type Doctoral Thesis Author Netshitahame, Nyadzanga Evelyn firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-10172008-130614 Document Title An analysis of learners' knowledge and understanding of human rights in South Africa Degree PhD Department Education Management and Policy Studies Supervisor
Advisor Name Title Dr W J van Vollenhoven Co-Supervisor Prof J L Beckmann Supervisor Keywords
- moral development
- core right
- post-conventional level
- conventional level
- pre-conventional level
- the right to education
- human rights
Date 2008-09-03 Availability unrestricted Abstract
The concept ‘human rights’ has become a buzz word to which different people attach different meanings. There are persistent media reports of human rights abuses, especially the right to education. There are seldom reports on human rights observances and responsibilities aligned with the exercise of each right in schools. South Africa joined the democracy of the world when she stepped out of the apartheid regime and adopted a new constitution underpinned by the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. Prior to 1994, human rights were not guaranteed to everyone. With the dawn of the new democracy, learners were confronted with a panoply of human rights, which they must access, and exercise. The right to education is one of these human rights. The right to education has now been awarded the status of a core human right, without which the possibility of the enjoyment and access to other human rights becomes tapered. The realities revealed by the literature are that more learners enrol in primary schools in large numbers, only to drop out later without acquiring functional literacy levels. Most of those who succeed in reaching secondary school level drop out too, with the consequence that very few learners are able to continue to tertiary level. Even though there is a host of scholarship on the topic of learners’ rights in general, the voices of learners with regard to their right to education are relatively silent.
Given the above background, this case study seeks to explore, understand and analyse secondary school learners’ knowledge and understanding of human rights, in particular their right to education. The investigation of this topic was twofold. Firstly, I explored learners’ knowledge of the scope of their right to education and secondly, from their responses, I determined their level of understanding. This study was conducted within the interpretive research paradigm.
It is of fundamental importance to investigate learners’ understanding of their right to education and the levels of rights reasoning at which they operate, since learners are the real beneficiaries of the right to education and the sustenance of the democracy depends on them. In short, research on learners’ understanding of their right to education is critical to the development of curriculum, structures and procedures that will permit learners to exercise the rights due to them and to ensure that the purpose underlying each particular right is fulfilled.
I purposively sampled one rural public secondary school in the Soutpansberg East circuit, Vhembe district in the Limpopo Province. During inductive data analysis, four patternsemerged from within the data: (a) the absolutising of the right to education by some of the learners; (b) not understanding how the right to education is limited within the context of the school; (c) assertion of the right to education and (d) non-assertion of the right to education based on three levels of human rights reasoning.
The main findings revealed firstly that although some of learners are au fait with the fact that their right to education, like all other human rights, involves responsibilities and that through the right to education various opportunities may be accessed, they still have limited knowledge regarding their right to education. Secondly, some learners are less conversant with regard to the exercising of their right to education. In addition, although learners exhibited three levels of human rights reasoning, their responses showed mostly levels I and II, and little level III of human rights understanding and reasoning. Lastly there were some isolated cases where learners’ responses revealed their uncertainty as to whether or not they in reality have the right to education.
These findings can be ascribed to (a) the authoritarian school system where “you do it our way” (conformity) is emphasised; (b) lack of prior exposure to human rights experiences; (c) grinding poverty; and (d) cultural background.
Theoretical and practical recommendations, as well as suggestions for future research were identified.
© University of Pretoria 2008D488/gm
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