Spatial Inequalities, Decentralization and Schooling Practices in Democratic South Africa: Some Ways to Understand Educational Inequalities

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 47 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Ingrid BAMBERG, Independent Researcher, France
Post-apartheid South Africa has adopted the international principles and semantics relating to democratic schooling: right and access to free and quality basic education for all, decentralization, freedom of school choice and community participation, among others. Yet too many children do not have access to quality education.

Based on an ethnographic study conducted in the primary schools of a semi-rural community in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, this article analyses the deep spatial inequalities remaining from apartheid and jeopardizing access to quality education in a context of decentralization.

Data was collected in all the six primary schools of the locality by interviewing school staff, parents, SGB and community members and through questionnaires given to each primary school learner.

By showing the social backgrounds of the pupils and their social distribution amongst the schools, evidence has been made of the ways access inequalities occur within the locality. Moreover, the state mechanisms to promote equity are challenged by its own definition of a local community, alongside schools’ strategies that are not necessarily conducive to democracy and equity. Although all children have theoretically the right to access quality education, only those from high socio-professional origin effectively enjoy it. Poor children of the locality remain disadvantaged and, de facto, social and spatial discrimination still takes place.

The educational policy takes into account people’s juridical ability to move within a free geographical, institutional and social space but neglects major spatial issues involved in implementing access to quality education for all. A comprehensive approach of schooling practices would prevent from dissociating schools from their social environment and from ignoring their role in shaping social dynamics that yet need to be understood in order to promote equity, social justice and cohesion.