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South African Journal of Education

On-line version ISSN 2076-3433
Print version ISSN 0256-0100

S. Afr. j. educ. vol.39  suppl.1 Pretoria Sep. 2019 



Learners and educators as agents of social transformation in dysfunctional South African schools



Kholeka Moloi

Education Department, Vaal University of Technology, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa.




The problem addressed in this theoretical paper is that of learners and educators as agents of social transformation in dysfunctional schools of South Africa. While 80% of South African schools are said to be dysfunctional, learners and educators in these schools can be activated to challenge and actively struggle against any form of social oppression that dehumanises and renders them failures. Educators can work in collaboration with learners to conscientize the latter so that they are able to question different forms of inequalities and discrimination implicit in the curriculum offered at school, which excludes their cultural learning experiences. This paper argues that township and rural school educators and learners can become social agents for change if they are exposed to critical pedagogy which fosters emancipatory methods of teaching and learning. Consequently, structural factors surrounding the South African education system must be addressed if learner performance in dysfunctional schools is to improve.

Keywords: agency; conscientization; critical pedagogy; curriculum development; dysfunctional schools; educators; learners; liberation; oppression; social transformation



Introduction and Background

It is well-documented that the South African education system is to a large extent not optimally producing intended education outcomes, with 80% of its schools said to be dysfunctional (Bergman, 2013; Pretorius, 2014; Schools dysfunctional - Motshekga, 2010; Westaway, 2015). IOL (2010) describes dysfunctional schools as schools in a state of chaos. Most educators in these schools lack the required subject knowledge and pedagogical skill to teach the subjects they are currently teaching (Spaull, 2019). Consequently, "they do not teach what they are trained to teach and too often lack the commitment to teach for six-and-a-half hours every day" (Schools dysfunctional - Motshekga, 2010:para. 5). According to Westaway (2015:3), dysfunctional schools are "usually mismanaged and use their resources inefficiently and unwisely." One of the ongoing debates is that dysfunctional schools are usually larger than average, with larger classes in which educators are ill-prepared and know little about the curriculum content and the learners they teach (Pretorius, 2014:51). The dysfunctionality of South African schools is attributed to various factors (De Vos, 2015:para. 1). For example, Jansen (2015:para. 23) argues that "dysfunctionality is a result of an unequal education system that feeds into and perpetuates an unequal labour market." She points out that "those children who attend dysfunctional schools do not attain any higher qualifications and are the first ones to fill the ranks of the unemployed and those in low-status jobs."

De Vos (2015:para. 1) notes that "after twenty-one years into democracy the state has failed to effect the radical transformation of public education as demanded by the constitution." Consequently, Wilkinson (2015:para. 1) argues that "black children suffer more when it comes to education, because the most dysfunctional schools are those in the townships and rural areas." In line with this thought, Colditz (2018) believes that the dysfunctionality of schools in black townships and in rural areas is apartheid's fault. However, Kriel (cited in Pheto, 2016) argues that the issue of dysfunctional schools has been identified not only in academic work, but also in government policy documents such as the National Development Plan 2030, and consequently the government should be able to resolve the problem over time. Furthermore, Westaway (2015:1) suggests that the fault of dysfunctional schools rests squarely with the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) because "its grip on dysfunctional schooling is so vice-like that it is virtually impossible to fire any of its members, whether for absence from work, non-performance or sexual harassment of children." Westaway further claims that these schools, controlled by SADTU, are best understood in terms of what they are, namely, crèches or day care facilities rather than in relation to what they are not - education institutions. He further claims that these schools have been captured by SADTU, which resists accountability.

This paper addresses the issue of learners and educators as agents of social transformation in dysfunctional schools in South Africa. According to Spaull (2019:1) dysfunctional schools are the result of "South African learners' persistent low performance in academic achievement, particularly in literacy and mathematics, compared to national curriculum standards and international assessments" (Jansen, 2015:para. 1). Gallie (2011:para. 3) indicates that 10% of South African schools are anti-functional, 20% dysfunctional, 50% under-performing, and 20% high performing. The 20% functional schools, according to Westaway (2015:1), "is made up of former white schools (10%) and exceptional township and village schools (the other 10%), which means that only about one in nine township and village schools deliver their stated educational purpose." Taylor (2011) refers to the South African education system as comprising two school sub-systems - one which is functional, wealthy and able to educate learners, the other being poor, dysfunctional and unable to equip learners with the necessary numeracy and literacy skills they should be acquiring. Pretorius (2014:51) states that learners exit the various school levels without the foundations for further learning and the skills required by employment sectors.

Pretorius (2014:51) also points out that "the low standards of education were in sharp focus when the results of the latest Grade 12 examinations were announced. Only 30% of learners who wrote Mathematics obtained 40% or higher and only 33% were those who wrote Physical Science. A learner could graduate from school with a mere 40% in three of the seven subjects and at least 30% in three other subjects." Jansen (2015:para. 1) argues that "the differences in the matric results of white and black children reveal just how grim the pall is that apartheid continues to cast over the life chances of South Africa's students." Her research reveals that data from the Basic Education department shows that the proportion of black 22 to 25-year-olds who by 2014 had a matric certificate to their name (48.4%), was far lower than the proportion of white youths (87.9%). Jansen (2015:para. 1) argues that this was despite the 12.3% increase, since 2002, in the proportion of black African 22 to 25-year-olds who had passed matric. She indicates that the proportion of coloured 22 to 25-year-olds who by 2014 had a matric certificate to their name was lowest of all, at 47.6%. According to Pretorius (2014:51) the number of children attaining matric exemption in 2014 "consisted of 66.7% white matric learners who passed well enough to study towards a degree at university, and another 29.2% qualified to study towards a diploma. But just 23.8% of black matric learners qualified to study towards a degree at university." Consequently, for Westaway (2015:3), "the educational system plays a critical role in the reproduction of the distribution of cultural capital and the reproduction of the structure of social space because it functions to conserve and legitimise inequalities." Westaway (2015:3) further argues that the education system performs this role very effectively because it is technically accessible to all and treats everyone equally. Thus, the problems of our schools are the problems of our society, and if problems in dysfunctional schools are left unabated, the country will continue to dehumanise the poor.

Literature Review: Critical Pedagogy

To address the problem of teacher and learner agency (Pillay, 2017) in dysfunctional schools, critical pedagogy was found relevant as a teaching method that aims to help challenge and actively struggle against any form of social oppression and its related customs and beliefs (Freire, 1970:26). According to Weimer (2009) critical pedagogy is predicated on the notion of learner engagement and proposes involvement via such strategies as collaborative and cooperative learning and problem-based learning, as well as a move away from lecturing. For Shor (1992:43) "critical pedagogy goes beyond situating the learning experience within the experience of the learner, because it also has a political agenda that views education to achieve social justice and change." Nouri and Sajjadi (2014:78) suggest that, "taken as a whole, critical pedagogy is an approach to the study of school and society that has as its main function the revelation of tacit values that underlie the enterprise. The achievement of such ends typically requires careful attention to the structure of schooling, the ways in which roles are defined, and the covert messages that are taught." In short "it requires an awareness of the school's hidden curriculum" (Freire, 1970:26). Seltzer-Kelly (2009:149) suggests that "the term hidden implies a person who hides, or some groups that intentionally conceal. Concealment, in turn, suggests a form of subterfuge in order to achieve some gains. Hence the hidden curriculum is often believed to serve the interests of the power elite that the school, unwittingly, is thought to serve."

If learners and educators actively participate in the decision-making process of curriculum in a true dialogue context, they will be able to overcome the hidden curriculum. Keesing-Styles (2003:para. 7) points out that the nature of the dialogue process should be inspiring. The context for true dialogue further enables the school participants to "challenge the hidden curriculum and critically reflect on the legitimatisation of norms and values espoused in schools." Kim and Pollard (2017:51) state that "in an emancipatory pedagogy context, curriculum is designed and implemented through interaction and dialogue between learners and educators, what is known as the negotiated curriculum. One of the potential results of a negotiated curriculum is that learners assume the greatest responsibility in the class, so that power and authority is distributed among the learners and the role of the teacher often varies (i.e. change agentry)." Freire (1970:37) notes that critical pedagogy is a method of conscientizing that which foregrounds the basic principle of his educational theory, which holds that there is no neutral education process. According to Freire (1970) education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the "practice of freedom," the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. Thus, critical pedagogy aims at creating a social action that comes mainly through educational practices (Essays UK, 2018:para. 1).

Criticism of critical pedagogy

Shor (1992:15) notes that "critical pedagogy has its critics who attack the methodology, goal and appearances." For example, in their study of how professors enact and embody critical praxis, Ruiz and Fernández-Balboa (2005:243) conclude that "it was no wonder that many of the physical education teachers actually floundered when trying to implement critical pedagogy in the post-secondary classroom since they struggled to even define it." Ruiz and Fernández-Balboa noted that these self-identified critical pedagogues most often actually reverted to the type of transmission-based pedagogy they knew best from their own formal school experiences. Breuing (2011:5) points out that she undertook a study to "examine the ways in which critical pedagogues define critical pedagogy." Her study examined the overlap and contradictory definitions of critical pedagogy. Her aim was to better understand people's conceptions and the ways in which they inform classroom practice. Breuing (2011:5) discovered the existence of multiple and varied definitions of critical pedagogy. She also found that "there was a paucity of empirical studies related to definitions, aims and purposes of critical pedagogy." The findings of her study are in line with the assertion by Seltzer-Kelly (2009:149) that, "immersed in Freire's call to re-imagine conventional notions of education in order to render it a process of liberation rather than one of domestication, he struggled with the much-noted theory-praxis gap in critical pedagogy, that is, the difficulty in answering the question: But what would that look like in my classroom?"

Indeed, how would it look like within the diverse, dysfunctional South African classrooms to adopt critical pedagogy as a method of teaching? In response to this dilemma, Monchinski (2008:141) suggests that "the specic context of one's classroom, one's students, one's subject, and one's personality - what one is comfortable and not comfortable with - would help shape any critical pedagogy in one's everyday classroom." Critical pedagogy helps to address the shortcomings of mainstream educational theory and practice, promoting the humanisation of the teacher and student (Monchinski, 2008:141). Notwithstanding, Shor (1992:13) enumerates the following further criticisms:

  • Teachers that use critical pedagogy will often bias the class towards an anti-status quo position instead of allowing students to decide if they agree or disagree with the situation at hand.

  • This approach to understanding the nature of society is often presented in a very intellectual fashion. When an individual attains the interest to find out the validity of the statements, they inherently must consider themselves separate from the rest of society. Critics will describe such a self-image as being elitist in a way which excludes the bulk of society thus preventing progress.

  • The goal exceeds the desire to instil creativity and exploration by encouraging detrimental disdain for tradition, hierarchy (such as parental control over children), and self-isolation.

  • Many people involved in critical pedagogy have never been involved in serious struggles and have used the field to build themselves and a small publishing cabal rather than a social movement. Paulo Friere, for example, can be criticized for being for revolution wherever he was not, and for reform wherever he was.

  • Much of critical pedagogy focuses on culture, language, and abstractions about domination rather than criticizing the centrality of class, alienation, and exploitation.

  • Rather than liberating student thought, teachers replace a cultural bias with their own bias.

Despite these criticisms, proponents of critical pedagogy believe that it is an emancipatory method of teaching that can address the plight of dysfunctional schools in South Africa and bring about conducive and humane learning environments.

The challenges of teaching in dysfunctional schools

Turner (1972:2) argues that "people's education in South Africa emerged as a movement in opposition to the apartheid government's Christian national education paradigm which could be considered forms of critical pedagogy in action by using educational sites for societal transformation." In line with this thought, Cooper (2016:47) suggests that "different forms of critical pedagogy have generally emerged organically out of social and political struggles in South Africa." Cooper (2016:47) further purports that "township schools in the 1980s became intense sites of political contestation in South Africa. Thus, education became a space in which people fought for an alternative kind of society." Similar struggles, activities, and sentiments have motivated recent educational movements in South Africa. These include #Fees Must Fall and the Rhodes Must Fall movements of 2016. The leaders of the protest movements, including Freire, Giroux, and McLaren strongly insist that education is always political (Cooper, 2016). For this reason, educators and learners, globally, should become transformative intellectuals (Giroux, 1988) or cultural workers (Freire, 1998:90) capable of identifying and redressing the injustices, inequalities and myths of an often-oppressive world. Monchinski (2008:141) explored "the applications of critical pedagogy to actual classroom situations to provoke thought in teachers, students and education activists." The motive was to "transform classrooms into democratic sites; from grading to testing, from content area disciplines to curriculum planning and instruction, from the social construction of knowledge to embodied cognition" (Monchinski, 2008:141). Zeichner (2009:134) maintains that for us to have good schools, it is imperative that educators are given the opportunity to occupy central roles in running those schools. Such an engagement by educators would provide the platform for coming up with workable solutions to the numerous problems that face schools.

Levit (2014:para. 3-7) argues that "in dysfunctional schools, the teacher is checking emails, texting or grading papers while students are doing worksheets. The teacher yells and scolds students on a frequent basis. Students text, use earbuds, or check social media in class. Problem students are placed in the back of the dysfunctional classroom and ignored. Student work is not displayed and/or the classroom is too generic looking." For Bergman (2013:381), dysfunctionality as any construct, "is subject to definition and interpretation, and it is thus always marked by perspectivism. Bergman (2013:381) states that dysfunctional schools are defined by what they are doing wrong and by what they lack, because a definition focusing on Grade 12 pass rates, for example, tends to implicate educators, while a definition focusing on infrastructure tends to exculpate educators and incriminate government and administration.

Westaway (2015:3) suggests that "the Good News Story election propaganda from the pre-election period in 2014 of the African National Congress (ANC) contributed to dysfunctional schools because SADTU is affiliated to the ruling party and it has a grip on dysfunctional schools." Westaway (2015:3) indicates that some of the main claims made by the ANC about its achievements in education over the past two decades were as follows:

  • It has improved access to schooling, to the extent that there is now almost 100% access at Grade 1 level.

  • It has introduced and rolled out no-fee schooling, such that many parents do not have to pay for the basic education of their children.

  • It has introduced and rolled out a feeding scheme at no-fee schools. All children at these schools received one free meal a day.

  • Increasingly, it provides free school uniforms to learners at no-fee schools. Significantly, all these claims were targeted at the beneficiaries of school-based welfare, namely, learners and their families, rather than at the beneficiaries of school-based patronage, namely, bureaucrats and teachers. Regarding the latter, it is no surprise that the ANC's Good News Story did not draw attention to the fact that it had significantly improved their terms of employment in 2008. Given that SADTU has a membership of approximately 250,000 people, this is obviously a large group of people; indeed, they make up about 10% of the ANC's inner core of operatives. The reason that this element of delivery (that is the pay rise) was left unsaid is the beneficiaries' loyalty was guaranteed, whereas general public sympathy with SADTU and its members is low. To have drawn attention to the fact that public employees are now better paid than their private sector counterparts could only have alienated certain existing voters without securing any new voters. Yet the delivery of patronage to teachers and education bureaucrats is certainly a key element of what the contemporary schooling system in South Africa does do. Not only have teachers' remuneration packages increased, so too have their job security.

Jansen (2015) refers to the teaching profession as the biggest job protection racket in South Africa. Zeichner (2009:133) argues that "restructuring of schools to become more professional and collaborative work environments is associated with tensions and contradictions." As transformative and organic intellectuals, we need to see teaching as a social responsibility and against the grain. As educators, we need to reflexively convert the power of position into the expertise of authority (Zeichner, 2009). The focus is on dialogical action that fosters "talking with" learners rather than "talking at" learners in our efforts at curriculum transformation in schools. To achieve this Herculean objective we need to, as advocated for by Smyth (1989:3), ask questions of the following nature:

  • Who is defining the work of teaching?

  • How is that definition being fought over and resisted in various ways?

  • How are issues of skill, competency, professionalism and autonomy being expressed in the social relations of teaching?

  • Whose interests are being served in the change process?

  • What new forms of power are being used to focus power relations in teaching?

  • How are the redefined labour relations of teaching being played out?

  • Whose voices are being excluded, silenced or denied?

  • How are we going to know when we make a difference?

To achieve this colonial disobedience we must ask fundamental questions about curriculum transformation in teacher education, which include the following (Giroux, 1985:376):

  • What counts as school knowledge and knowledge in teacher education?

  • How is such knowledge selected and organised into discipline subjects in the school environment?

  • What are the underlying interests that structure the form and content of school and teacher education knowledge?

  • How is what counts as school knowledge or teacher education knowledge transmitted?

  • How is access to such knowledge determined?

  • What cultural values and formations are legitimated by dominant forms of school and teacher education knowledge?

  • What cultural formations are disorganised and de-legitimated by dominant forms of school and teacher education knowledge in key disciplines such as life orientation in the school system?

These questions help us to insert a critical pedagogy into our teaching that is grounded in our local contexts and which is historical, political, and ideological. This is how an oppositional de-colonial epistemic turn emerges in the classroom. At the heart of this discourse lies our oppositional efforts in the process of curriculum transformation to "re-define the relationships between communities, schools and cultural institutions" (Smyth, 1989:5), that are being overtaken by a global discourse embedded in a neo-liberal economic agenda. The questions stated above are in line with the aims of "emancipatory pedagogy, which is deeply rooted in the notion that education should play a role in creating a just and democratic society" (Giroux, 1985:376). According to Nouri and Sajjadi (2014:76) "emancipatory pedagogy involves a way of thinking about, negotiating, and transforming the relationships in classroom teaching, the production of knowledge, the institutional structures of the school, and the social and material relations of the wider community, society and nation-state."

Access, the material and socio-political function of dysfunctional schools

Westaway (2015:3) asserts that "across the country, the quality of basic education provided to learners still largely depends on whether a child, and his or her parents are middle class or not, live in the city or in a rural area, are black or white, male or female, or are lucky enough to live close to a school not rendered catastrophically dysfunctional because of weak leadership." Westaway (2015:3) claims that "the material functions of the schooling system are empirically clear, much more so than its socio-political functions. This does not make the latter any less important. On the contrary, whilst the former is a key part of contemporary class formation in South Africa, the latter are important pieces of the puzzle that explain the reproduction of social structure and political stability in the country." There are two related social functions of South Africa's so-called dysfunctional schools that Westaway (2015:3) explains as "maintaining the myth of universal epistemological access to education and what is commonly termed the hidden curriculum." For Westaway (2015:3) "the fact that the massification of black education that began under apartheid (during the era of Bantu education) has now been completed - resulting in universal access to schooling, which means that all working-class children can be accommodated in these repositories." Black children, Westaway (2015:3) argues, "are by no means empty repositories; on the contrary, they are places where services are delivered, and goods are dispensed. First, employees called "teachers" offer child care or child-minding services. Levels of oversight are low and the actual amount of care that the professionals show for the children is negligible. Nevertheless, the children are kept behind lock and key (schools are generally fenced, and gates are kept locked during school hours), and they are supervised by adults. The supervision responsibility shifts according to a timetable, from employee to employee. Children move from room to room between allocated time slots called periods. The significance of this day care service for the children's parents should not be undermined. Because the parents are correctly classified as working-class, they are very busy trying to make household ends meet. Either they spend their entire day in a menial job, or they are very busy in other ways trying to put food on the family table each night."

Consequently, "for the state to take their children off their hands for almost the entire day, in a relatively safe environment, is undoubtedly beneficial and valuable for parents" (Westaway, 2015:3). The state also buys children clothes for school by providing uniforms and a daily free meal. Given that money is scarce in many black working-class families, the importance of these welfare benefits of schooling should not be down-played (Van den Berg, Van Wyk, Burger, Kotzé, Piek & Rich, 2017:30).

According to Annandale (2010:1) the ANC government is doing what many fathers and mothers would otherwise not easily be able to do for their sons and daughters - namely, clothe and feed them. In summary, the so-called dysfunctional schools function very effectively as sites both where ANC state patronage is dispensed (to educators) and where welfare is doled out en masse to working-class black learners and their parents (Westaway, 2015:3).

Issues of equity in dysfunctional schools

Dale-Jones (2011) argues that in dysfunctional schools educators do not know how to reach children who arrive in class unready to learn, and often wounded. These learners' parents have missing partners. Westaway (2015:3) suggests that "the formal equality that the education system practices amounts to is a promotion of the values and culture of the most favoured." Children of the rich are imbued with these favoured values and culture from birth. They thrive in the system while children of the poor flounder (Espino, 2016:73). For this reason, Bourdieu (1998) reasons that the formal equity that governs the entire educational system is unjust, and in any society that proclaims democratic ideals, it protects privileges all the better than would be their open and obvious transmission. Bourdieu (1998:36) further argues that justice in the education system would necessarily involve giving "the disinherited the real means for acquiring what others have inherited." De Vos (2015:para. 2) argues that "it is unthinkable that a post-apartheid government would, through wilful neglect, callousness or incompetence perpetuate and further entrench the educational apartheid so lovingly championed by Hendrik Verwoerd and his National Party regime."

According to De Vos (2015:para. 4) "any state committed to transformation would make every human effort to ensure that the provision of basic education is equitable and gives every child a fair shot at succeeding. In short, one would have expected that the state would do everything it humanly could to ensure that poor, rural, or black children were not discriminated against in the provision of basic education based on their race, class, gender, or other relevant characteristic."

The main challenges for curriculum development

How, then, can we design a curriculum that is transformative in a dysfunctional school? For Nouri and Sajjadi (2014:76) the answer is "an emancipatory pedagogy which is an innovative approach to education represented theoretically in the works of Paulo Freire, Ira Shore, Henry Giroux and Peter McLaren." Nouri and Sajjadi (2014:76) state that "there is some valid evidence that endorses emancipatory pedagogy's practicable potentiality because it is founded on the notion that education should play a fundamental role in creating a just and democratic society." The main educational aims of this approach, they claim, are manifestation of humanisation, critical conscientisation, and a problem-posing education system. Emancipatory pedagogy accordingly seeks to invite both learners and educators to critically analyse the political and social issues as well as the consequences of social inequity. This requires a negotiated curriculum based on true dialogue that values social interaction, collaboration, authentic democracy, and self-actualisation.

Turner (1972:3) notes that "the child must go to school voluntarily, and the teacher must no longer be the one who knows, but rather as a helpful companion in a common search for truth. The school must be a place which has resources that can be used when needed." Therefore, we cannot return to the apartheid educational system, because skills required to succeed in the 21st century include the ability to meet people and nurture relationships, and commit to moral and ethical discussions (Schwab, 2017:97-98). According to Mahmoudi, Khoshnoo and Babaei (2014:86) schools should be considered as places for social change and evolution, where not only critical thinking among learners is fostered but where they are taught how to change their surrounding environments.

Brasof and Mansfield (2018:5) state that, in developing curriculum, "educational authorities at all levels should regularly consult with business and the world of technology and establish what skills are needed in the future and that the following should be implemented:

  • do not give free education for all, but free education for those who are gaining employable skills;

  • give double salaries for those who are good at teaching the necessary skills;

  • pension off the teachers who cannot cope with the new reality;

  • give GB [gigabytes] of free data for all under the age of 25 (to access information); and

  • bar teacher unions from schools during school hours."

Brasof and Mansfield (2018:5) further argue that, in competing with every country in the world, educators need to work together and get their education systems right, fast, or they will get themselves left further behind and children will suffer the consequences. In adopting critical pedagogy as a method of teaching, Brasof and Mansfield (2018:5) believe that education is inherently political and consequently any social and educational vision of justice and equality should be the basis for any kind of education that liberates from oppression and human suffering. Consequently, an important dimension in curriculum development should be a process which takes the experiences of both the learner and the educator, through dialogue and negotiation, while recognising them both as problematic. Such a stance enables place and space for both learners and educators to confront the real problems of their social, cultural, and politic existence.

In reforming curriculum, educators should strive for an evolving criticality which interrogates the following: (i) rethink critical theory from the perspective of South Africa; (ii) re-insert a critical ontology and educator agency in curriculum reform; (iii) reconceptualise the foundations of education to insert a de-colonial epistemic turn; (iv) instil critical understanding of racism and its impact on curriculum transformation in schools; and (v) re-centre educators as researchers and organic intellectuals. The kind of learning accentuated here is one that is reflective, critical, and transformative and moves away from consensus theory, which is the basis of normative approaches to learner learning (Smyth, 1989:2). Grundy (1987:11) states that "education should promote both emancipatory change as well as cultivate the intellect. It should be kept in mind that the current education system in South Africa reflects the interests of the existing system of exploitation. This dynamic must be exposed and understood by employing critical pedagogy, to act against it as part of a praxis towards social change." The state in dysfunctional schools cannot be remedied by spending more money on education. Educators and learners should rather be empowered to liberate themselves from a dehumanising condition.



This paper addresses the condition of dysfunctional schools in South African townships and rural areas. Critical pedagogy was found suitable as a method of teaching for learner engagement in curriculum development and decision-making. It argues that educators, learners, and education activists have the capacity to transform classrooms into democratic sites of learning and can be activated to challenge and struggle against any form of social oppression that dehumanises and renders them failures. Educators and learners should be able to question a hidden curriculum because it serves the interests of the power elite that the school, unwittingly, is thought to serve. By adopting critical pedagogy as a method of teaching, educators and learners can work in collaboration as social agents for change and thereby liberate themselves from oppressive systems.



i . Published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence.



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Received: 4 December 2018
Revised: 15 April 2019
Accepted: 2 July 2019
Published: 30 September 2019

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