South African Journal of Higher Education

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Rurality and rural education: Discourses underpinning rurality and rural education research in South African postgraduate education research 1994–2004

T Nkambule, RJ Balfour, G Pillay, R Moletsane


Historically, rurality and rural education have been marginalised bodies of knowledge in South Africa. The post-1994 era has seen an emerging government concern to address the continuing interplay between poverty, HIV/AIDS, underdevelopment, and underachievement in schools categorised as rural. To address these concerns, scholars in South African institutions of higher learning have conducted research on various issues on rurality and rural education. However, little is known of the focus of the various studies and the state of rural education and rural education research. Drawing on the Project for Postgraduate Education Research (PPER) from 1995– 2004, the purpose of this article is to critically analyse the discourses underpinning rural education and rural education research in South Africa. The article focuses on three enabling assumptions. The first is that there is little research which takes as its primary focus rurality as lived experience worthy of scholarly reflection regarding how rurality influences social or specific education issues. Secondly, there is substantively more research in which rurality, or facets of rural life, is considered as context in which projects or studies are located. Such studies are conducted in a rural context without any intention of investigating rural issues or rural education issues, or explaining how rurality influences education in these rural contexts. Thirdly, there is a small body of research which takes as its focus social issues in relation to rural conditions. These studies focus on rurality not merely as the context of reflection, but as an active constituent of social conditions evident in rural life. Our analysis, focusing on postgraduate research in South African HEIs in terms of these assumptions, aims to continue a dialogue that leads to further understanding of the complexities of rural education and rural development.

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