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Are rural educational institutions meeting their expected standards?

In a country with high-levels of unemployment, crime and poverty, it is no surprise that the vast majority of South African children in schools in the rural areas are still marginalised and radically under-served in numerous aspects.

In South Africa, which now has an unemployment rate of 32.1%, several analyses also show that the youth who are black, female and/or living in rural areas are most affected. Research also demonstrates high youth unemployment is associated with negative economic outcomes (i. poverty).

For many rural communities, it is no secret that public schools in these areas are commonly categorised by various factors that negatively impact on the provision of quality education. Unfortunately, the issues also extend beyond academics.

Many schools in rural areas also lack facilities like libraries, laboratories, sports fields and sometimes basic infrastructure such as roofs, doors and windows.

According to reports, weighted against the average schools in urban schools and general locations outside the rural areas, kids from rural areas score incredibly lower on tests, educational attainments and lower skills development.

The main causes that have since been identified as factors behind these results are as stated below:

  • Travel distances – The distance the average student travels to their respective schools, either by foot or transportation (buses and taxis) has been an astounding issue that has made it difficult for students to excel in school.
  • Teaching – Most schools in rural areas mostly find it incredibly difficult to seek and keep skilled teachers. This issue directly impacts the learners, many of whom are already at a disadvantage, skill set wise. Additionally, teachers in these areas are subjected to teach more than one grade and more than one subject, which also has serious repercussions for teachers and the pupils.
  •  Internet access- With the world moving to a more technology reliant society, most learners in these areas are still struggling behind with the lack of basic necessities that will help in their education. Internet connection is amongst the issues. This also makes it a hurdle for students who attempt to fit into other schools as they are always going to need additional attention resulting from their background.
  • Poverty – Poverty has been shown to affect educational outcomes. Going to school on a hungry stomach is never ideal. However, this is the reality of many kids growing up in poverty stricken rural homes. This factor also causes high-levels of absenteeism.

The knock-on effects of these are almost ever-lasting as this can impact career opportunities for them even as adults. Kids from urban or better connected areas will likely be more resourced and able to network better.

To attempt to solve this crisis, communities and government can try the following:

  • Encourage teacher recruitment and retention
  • Implement methods of supporting behavioural and mental health requirements for staff and pupils
  • More funding facilities and infrastructure.
  • Book donations and volunteer programs
  • Get parents more involved in the day-to-day activities at school
  • Providing nutrition and food drive for the kids that are likely to miss school because of hunger.
  • Get the kids involved in after school programmes that benefit the embitterment of the school i.e clean-up drives.

There are many challenges faced by schools in rural areas but it is often the lack of support and unity that greatly causes many of these feeds into many of the troubles faced by the poor of poorest communities.

While there is no one quick and easy solution to these, building cohesive communities built on strong and united families can be a start. Improving access to quality education for students is a serious issue that requires action from policymakers, educators and solutions could be another avenue to explore.

The key is to realize that just because many ideas might have not been successful, there should be no reason to lose hope.