SHIFTING THE FUTURE? TEACHERS AS AGENTS OF SOCIAL CHANGE IN SOUTH AFRICAN SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Keywords:social justice, morality, critical pedagogy, South Africa, collective action, secondary education
South Africa has risen to the forefront of educational debates that claim schooling can promote social justice and social cohesion. By drawing on Freireâ€™s (1970) theory of critical pedagogy, this paper examines how South African teachers in rural and township schools encourage students to reflect critically upon their own lives and take action to improve issues of inequality, violence, and insecurity. It argues that teachers understand their roles as agents of social change primarily as encouraging respect, morality, and racial reconciliation among learners. The ways in which the youth take up the teachersâ€™ efforts to promote change depends upon how the teachersâ€™ practices speak to the studentsâ€™ own life circumstances. When the youth relate to the teachersâ€™ life stories and course material, they engage in the process of moral translation. In other words, the youth rework their lessons into ideas of how they should behave as moral human beings. Yet, frequently young South Africans do not learn a morality based on a Freirean notion of social justice â€“ a seemingly central component to the national curriculum â€“ but instead a morality based on individualised notions of personal responsibility and hope for a better future. The paper concludes with several suggestions to improve educational practices for social justice.
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