File photo: INLSA
The Department of Basic Education has admitted that rural education is in crisis and has embarked on a path it hopes will radically turn things around.

The department has invited the public to comment on its draft rural education policy.

In the document published in the National Gazette, it said the policy “aims to ensure that rural schools provide quality education for all learners”.

The department said pro-poor initiatives implemented since 1994 to bring rural schools on to an equal footing with their urban counterparts, had not yielded results.

“In spite of these significant interventions, a large number of rural schools are still characterised by inadequate resources, teacher shortages, absenteeism and learners who drop out of school. And, above all, poor educational outcomes.”

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga had also implemented initiatives aimed at improving the quality of education in rural schools, pointed out the document.

But “progress towards achieving these goals is uneven, with rural schools continuing to bear the brunt of inequality (in human and material resources) and poor performance”.

“The (proposed) policy aims to address the isolation, disconnectedness, shame and distrust, as well as the lack of development often associated with rural communities and schools.”

Inequality between rural and urban schools is brought to the fore each year following the release of the matric results. Schools performing badly, with some scoring zero passes, are largely in rural areas, and they also have a shortage of resources and teachers. 

NGO Equal Education said in a report that many pupils in Limpopo’s rural schools continued to use “dangerous and undignified” toilets.

The department’s document said the “resource shortages experienced by rural schools” could be addressed by fiscal investments. But “civic agency” was also required.

This would see communities allowing pupils to use their agricultural resources, for instance, for learning purposes. It appears the department has realised the damage multi-grade teaching inflicted on rural pupils.