Children's schooling in South Africa: Transitions and tensions in households and communities

Type Working Paper
Title Children's schooling in South Africa: Transitions and tensions in households and communities
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2000
URL Working Paper​30.pdf?sequence=1
New educational policies in South Africa have been designed to address the
inequities of the former system and to 'provide an education of progressively
high quality for all learners and in so doing lay a strong foundation for the
development of all our people's talents and capabilities, advance the
democratic transformation of society, ... [and] contribute to the eradication of
poverty and the economic well-being of society ...' (Preamble, South African
Schools Act, 1996, Government Gazette vol 377, 15 November, p.2).
Specific policies and programmes to address this ambitions directive
necessarily have focused on the reorganisation of schools, instructional
standards and curricula. Providing schooling for children, however, involves
more than just the learning environment of the classroom, but also the home.
Recent research in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa suggests that household
resources are not necessarily evenly distributed across members, and that
families who are especially economically or socially vulnerable are likely to
face difficult decisions over which children should receive how much
education (Lloyd and Blanc, 1996; Makinwa-Adebusoye, 1991). These
decisions are often linked to particular household structures, which include
the number and ages of children, and the support of adults in the household,
both socially and economically. The fiscal shortages feeing local and national
government further contribute to the centrality of household viability and
structure to children's schooling (Lloyd, 1994). Educating successively larger
cohorts of children has placed tremendous burden on governments.
Governments in turn have increasingly shifted these costs to families,
exacerbating the strain on the household economy. The allocation of
resources within the family may prove to be a crucial locus of policy
evaluation and reform in the education sector: policies and programmes
designed to benefit children do so largely through the mediation of parents or
other adults in the household. However, as parents decide how many children
to have and how well to educate them, the local and national constraints on
that decision also must be considered. How does the larger policy and
infrastructural context mediate parents' decisions about the number of
children they have and the allocation of household resources among them?

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