South Africa’s Education Crisis: Views from the Eastern Cape | National Inquiry Services Centre

South Africa’s Education Crisis

South Africa’s Education Crisis: Views from the Eastern Cape

Views from the Eastern Cape

By Edited by Laurence Wright
Size: 245 x 168 x 8mm (L x W x T)
Pages: 142
ISBN 13: 978-1-920033-14-9
Published: August 2012
Publishers: NISC (Pty) Ltd
Recommended Retail Price: R 150.00
Cover: Paperback

About the book

South Africa's Education Crisis casts light on the context and causes of the education crisis in the Eastern Cape, as well as drawing together original research, commentary and analysis in language education topics by teacher educators from Rhodes University's Institute for the Study of English in Africa and colleagues elsewhere, all of whom have been involved in the in-service education and development of teachers for many years.

Although the focus is on the Eastern Cape, many of the issues considered are common to education in rural areas throughout southern Africa and this book will prove useful to educational researchers, education managers, teachers and teacher educators elsewhere in South Africa and beyond. 

Review by Jeannie Mckeown

The publication draws on fresh research, commentary and analysis by researchers associated with the Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA).

Devised as a means of enhancing national debate on the failures and conflicts within the Eastern Cape education system and elsewhere, as well as urging solutions and interventions which teachers themselves can effect to make the changes needed at grass roots level, the book was edited by ISEA Director Professor Laurence Wright, and contains chapters by Prof Wright and other ISEA staff members, including Alan Macintosh Research Fellow Dr Monica Hendricks, and research officers Ntombekhaya Fulani and Madeyandile Mbelani.

Prof Wright baldly stated the situation facing education in the Eastern Cape, and indeed countrywide, in the latest English Educators Association newsletter.

“This is,” he said, “where South African people come face to face with their own character, and their willingness to work together to construct a progressive, non-racial, non-sexist democracy that has the capacities and skills to create a more equal and better resourced society.”

According to Professor Wright, the state of our education system indicates that South Africa is currently failing to meet this challenge. The new book affirms that the main reason for the crisis is failure to place teacher education and development at the centre of South Africa’s efforts to transform education.

The ISEA has been training teachers in the Eastern Cape, through the ACE and BEd in-service programmes, for many years now, and in this time both the educators and the staff of ISEA have seen first-hand many of the problems bedevilling schools, teachers and learners.  

The inspiration for a book of this nature came from the desire not only to expose the failings but also to praise good work which is being done in a difficult and badly-managed arena.

Presented in Chapter 3 of the book, an eye-opening interview with Dr Frank Peters, retired Director for ECD and GET Curriculum Programmes with the Eastern Cape Education Department, brings into focus many behind-the-scenes management issues which keep standards below par.

The book contains chapters on the origins of the crisis in the Eastern Cape, looking at problems of power and corruption within local government; on visual literacy in rural schools; on rural teachers’ reading and their social imagination; on learning Science in the rural context, and the challenges of language textbooks in the context of equal education.

In addition, a chapter on lessons from Classroom Observation is included and the book ends with a chapter by Prof Wright entitled Teachers as Heroes, which encourages society, education departments and teachers themselves to understand their full value “for the benefit of themselves, their learners and the civilisation in which we live.”

About the Authors

Ntombekhaya Fulani is a Research Officer with the Institute for the Study of English in Africa at Rhodes University. She teaches modules in the BEd and ACE (ELT) programmes offered by the Institute, and is currently engaged in a comparison of school textbooks published in Xhosa and English for her MEd degree.

Dr Monica Hendricks is Alan Macintosh Research Fellow with the Institute for the Study of English in Africa at Rhodes University. She teaches and coordinates courses for teachers of English as an additional language. Her doctoral research, at the University of the Witwatersrand, investigated bilingual children’s classroom writing. Her ongoing research interests include children’s writing ande development of a sense of self, and teachers’ literacy practices.

Mandyandile Mbelani is a research officer with the Institute for the Study of English in Africa and a PhD candidate at Rhodes University. He researches issues in English language teaching and learning, specialising in visual literacy, and develops English language teaching materials. He also teaches in contact sessions for the BEd in-service course, which is delivered at Rhodes during school holidays, and visits teachers’ districts for in-school support visits, afternoon workshops, and day-long seminars. 

Dr Frank Peters is the former Director of Curriculum and Teacher Development in the Eastern Cape Education Department. He holds a Master’s degree in Maths, Science and Technology from the University of California at Berkeley and a Doctorate in Education from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. After teaching Biology and Mathematics at David Livingstone High School in Port Elizabeth, he served as principal of the school before joining the Department of Education in 1996. He has made a noteworthy impact on the provision of curriculum support services to primary schools in the province. 

Margie Probyn lectures in language education and teacher development at the University of the Western Cape. Her research interests are in language and learning, language-in-education policy and practice, bilingualism, and teacher education and development. She was formerly Alan Macintosh Research Fellow in Rhodes University’s Institute for the Study of English in Africa, where she played a significant role in establishing the Institute’s in-service teacher education programmes. 

Laurence Wright is HA Molteno Professor of English and Director of the Institute for the Study of English in Africa at Rhodes University. He writes on language policy, Shakespeare, J.M. Coetzee, South African poetry and culture, and the humanities in South Africa. A member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, he is Honorary Life President of the Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa, Chairman of the Grahamstown Foundation, and Vice-President of the English Academy of Southern Africa, which recently awarded him its Gold Medal for lifetime achievement. He has taught literature and writing to in-service English teachers in the Eastern Cape for some 20 years.


CHAPTER 1: Origins of the Eastern Cape Education Crisis
CHAPTER 2: Schooling and Resources in the Eastern Cape
CHAPTER 3: ‘Power bedevils everything’: Improving Education in the Eastern Cape – an Interview with Frank Peters
CHAPTER 4: Learning Science in Eastern Cape Schools
CHAPTER 5: Rural Teachers, Reading and the Social Imagination
CHAPTER 6: Visual Literacy: Reflections from Rural Schools
CHAPTER 7: Language Textbooks and the Challenge of Equal Education
CHAPTER 8: National Language Conundrums in the Rural Classroom
CHAPTER 9: Lessons from Classroom Observation
CHAPTER 10: Teachers as Heroes

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