Call for papers – Special themed issue of Education as Change

After 24 years of democracy, social justice remains an elusive ideal in South Africa, one of the most unequal societies (Alfreds 2017). In the conclusion of their analysis of educational inequalities Badat and Sayed (2014) state that “our analysis indicates that the post-1994 government’s devotion in practice to a strong version of social justice underpinning policy in education is moot, due perhaps to the divergent and even contradictory understandings of equity and redress.” The lack of social justice is present in the two very different education systems in South Africa: A well-resourced and functioning system for the privileged few and a largely dysfunctional system for the majority of black, working class, rural and informal settlement communities.

Education in rural communities lags behind educational development in other parts of the country, notwithstanding that the majority of school-age children live in rural societies. Classroom learning and pedagogical performance are severely hampered by the lack of pedagogical resources. When resources are grossly inadequate, the performance of teachers and students becomes vulnerable. While some of the teachers have better credentials, are more highly experienced and more talented than others, students who attend schools in affluent urban areas learn in immaculate buildings in contrast to the dilapidated buildings of their poorer peers. The strategy to recruit unqualified and underqualified teachers to address shortages particularly in rural schools contributes towards the inequalities (Reddy 2003). The use of teachers with limited professional education has been linked to lower quality education and poor student outcomes.

Poverty is the biggest threat to social justice, not only as an indication of inequality, but also of exclusion from active participation in economic and political processes. Poverty should not only be understood in terms of low income, but also in terms of quality of life. While the issue of low income has to some extent been addressed through social grants, the quality of life related to living conditions, access to land, and equal educational opportunities, is still lacking for the majority. While poverty is a systemic effect of historical colonialism and of current forms of capitalist neo-colonialism, the persistence of high levels of poverty and inequality in South African society is also the effect of a weakened state which fails to develop and successfully implement appropriate policies. The failure to address the cycle of poverty  has the educational effects of absent and inadequate infrastructure, low outcomes and throughput rates, underqualified and ill-equipped teachers (Sayed 2008) and inefficient school management.

Poverty may be viewed as a direct barrier to education. Without financial means, families are unable to send their children to school or afford uniforms and books. The absence of quality education is accompanied by the lack of access to clean water and sanitation, which expose learners to malnutrition and sickness. Nieto (2005) argues that government inaction and practical considerations, such as having to work to support their families, result in the failure of many children to complete even a primary education. Girls in particular are kept at home to look after their siblings, help with chores or fetch water, which is often found many hours from home. Conflict often means that children are forced to flee their homes; it also makes travelling to and from school very dangerous. Even those lucky enough to attend school are often taught by untrained teachers, sit in overcrowded classrooms and have to travel many hours to school and back.

These issues cannot be adequately addressed without a clear sense of the meaning of social justice. Social justice could be defined in terms of equal distribution or mutual recognition. Social justice as equal distribution refers to the economic base of various kinds of inequalities in society such as class differentials. Mutual recognition refers to social hierarchies related to categories such as gender, “race” and sexuality. While these two notions of social justice are often posed as alternatives, intersections exist such as the levels of poverty among the rural black section of the population. Attempts to integrate these two notions of social justice are made by ethical theorists such as Fraser (1999) who develops a notion of parity in participation.

Social justice also entails human rights promotion. Human beings are on a permanent quest for the satisfaction of their basic needs: the most fundamental physical needs such as food, health care and shelter, but also the moral needs of security, affection, valorisation and actuation. To secure and ensure respect for these and other related rights, the society has agreed upon a number of conventions, laws and regulations by which to abide. The creation of social justice in our African continent faces distinct problems, like the high rate of crime, unemployment, poverty, drug abuse, homelessness, and other problems that ensure all students do not receive the same high standard of education. This is no reason to abandon attempting to promote a just society and trying to aim for it. In summary, social justice is the value which should guide us in creating institutions which, when justly organised, provide access to what is good for the person, both individually and in association with others. Social justice thus imposes on each of us a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development (Grant 2004). Social justice is concerned with equal justice, not just in the court of law, but in society as a whole. The distributive notion of justice demands that people have equal rights and opportunities; everyone, from the poorest person on the margins of society to the wealthiest deserves fairness in the eyes of the law. Social justice as parity of participation in education is thus perceived as a process and goal that allows for the full and equal participation of all students in a school that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice education envisions a society in which individuals are both self-determining and interdependent. Moreover, social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of responsibility towards and with others, their society and the broader world in which they live (Adams, Bell, and Griffin 2007).

Teachers are thrust into a position in which they must prepare students and the poverty-stricken communities for participation in an anti-oppressive society. Nieto and Bode (2012) are of the opinion that teaching for social justice involves teaching that arouses students and engages them in a quest to identify obstacles to their full humanity, to their freedom, and then to drive, to move against those obstacles. In line with national policy requirements, teachers are increasingly addressing forms of social justice education by focusing on classroom pedagogies and educational practices that combat different forms of oppression such as racism and sexism (Reddy 2003). What the authors mentioned here suggest is that teachers can change the context in which they reside. There is a widespread misconception, however, that only students of colour, or so-called disadvantaged students from poor backgrounds, should be involved in social justice education (Nieto 2005, 352). We view this notion through various paradigms and work with the assumption that white pre-service teachers need to be part of the solution to bring about social change in South African education. In relation to the curriculum, justice as equal distribution implies that all learners should gain access to powerful knowledge (Young 2008), while justice as mutual recognition demands that indigenous and community knowledges, such as “knowledge from the South” (de Sousa Santos 2014), should be included (Yosso 2005) and that their exclusion implies epistemicide (Grosfoguel 2013).


You are invited to submit a research article that addresses this problematic captured by the theme.

Your paper could be related to, but is not restricted to any of these sub-themes:

  • Conceptions of social justice
  • Poverty alleviation strategies and education
  • Gender equality promotion and women empowerment
  • Exclusion based on HIV AIDS pandemic and malaria
  • Environmental justice and education
  • The dimensions of language in the social justice equation
  • Creating a learning environment that promotes critical thinking and supports agency for change
  • Dismantling oppression and generating a vision for a more socially just future
  • Africanisation and Indigenisation
  • A curriculum for social justice
  • Socially just pedagogies
  • Epistemic justice in education
  • The pursuit of social justice in particular subject areas

Researchers interested to contribute to the proposed special issue are to submit abstracts for consideration and full manuscripts as outlined in the time schedule below. Submitted abstracts will undergo a blind peer review process. Responses to abstract suitability will be provided within two weeks from the date of submission. Prospective authors will be requested to submit their complete manuscripts by the due date.

Submission of abstracts

Abstracts must be submitted by email attachment to the secretary of the special issue: Prof LDM Lebeloane. Email:

Manuscript submission

Manuscripts must be submitted on the journal website:

In order to submit the manuscript, you need to register as an author on the website.

Please consult the author guidelines in order to prepare your document for the blind peer review process and adhere to the journal’s style.

Please note that article processing fees of R6500 apply once an article is accepted for publication.


Abstracts submission: 30 June 2018

Manuscript submission: 31 October 2018

Publication: June 2019

Guest Editor

Prof MW Lumadi, College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies, Unisa. Email:


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Adams, M., L.-A. Bell, and P. Griffin. 2007. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. New York: Routledge.

Alfreds, D. 2017. “SA Inequality Grows as Rich Take Larger Share—Report.” Fin24, December 14. Accessed March 4, 2018.

Badat, S., and Y. Sayed. 2014. “Post-1994 South African Education: The Challenge of Social Justice.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 652 (1): 127–49.

de Sousa Santos, B. 2014. Epistemologies of the South. Justice against Epistemicide. London: Routledge.

Fraser, N. 1999. “Social Justice in the Age of Identity Politics: Redistribution, Recognition, and Participation.” In Culture and Economy after the Cultural Turn, edited by L. Ray and A. Sayer, 25–52. London: Sage.

Grant, C. A. 2004. “Oppression, Privilege, and High-Stakes Testing.” Multicultural Perspectives 6 (1): 3–11.

Grosfoguel, R. 2013. “The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities: Epistemic Racism/Sexism and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century.” Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge 11 (1): 73–90.

King, M. L. 1967. ‘“Beyond Vietnam—A Time to Break Silence.” Speech delivered at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church, New York City, April 4.

Nieto, S., ed. 2005. Why We Teach. New York: Teachers College Press.

Nieto, S. 2006. Teaching as Political Work: Learning from Courageous and Caring Teachers. Bronxville, NY: Child Development Institute, Sarah Lawrence College. The Longfellow Lecture Occasional Papers.

Nieto, S., and P. Bode. 2012. Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. 5th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Reddy, V. 2003. “Initial Training for Permanent Unqualified Teachers through Distance Education Programs: South African College of Education as a Case Study.” In Changing Patterns of Teacher Education South African Policy, Practices and Prospects, edited by K. Lewin, M. Samuel and Y. Sayed, 116–37. Johannesburg:  Heinemann.

Sayed, Y.  2008. “Education and Poverty Reduction/Eradication: Omissions, Fashions and Promises.” In Education and Poverty Reduction Strategies. Issues of Policy Coherences, edited by S. Maile, 53–67. Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Yosso, T. J. 2005. “Whose Culture Has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth.” Race Ethnicity and Education 8 (1): 69–91.

Young, M. F. D. 2008. Bringing Knowledge Back In. From Social Constructivism to Social Realism in the Sociology of Education. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis.