A study of different forms of educational exclusion and loss of meaningful access in selected schools in the Eastern Cape: implications for universal primary education

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Universal access to education has emerged as one of the goals which many countries, through international agencies such as the United Nations, have subscribed to and channeled resources towards its attainment. Over the years, it has been argued that Universal Primary Education (UPE) is particularly important as it constitutes a large part of basic education which lays the foundation for the production of the necessary skilled manpower for the knowledge economy. Despite the recognition of the importance of post-primary and higher education, UPE continues to be an area of focus as demonstrated by its inclusion as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).Traditionally, UPE has relied on quantitative measures as indicators of its achievement. This study argues that the idea of universal goes beyond the physical inclusion of all learners of school-going age in school. Backing this stance by empirical evidence, the study attempts to show that any claim to attaining UPE offers only a partial understanding to the phenomenon if it does not identify and explain indicators of different forms of educational exclusion and analyse their dynamics. Using a mixed methods design, the study proceeded in two main phases. The first phase was the collection and analysis of official statistical measures of educational access which shows broad aggregate trends. The second phase was a multiple case study of six Community Schools (COMSs) in a poor, deep rural area of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. This was designed to discover and understand local level variables whose significance is often lost when aggregate statistics are used to judge the achievement of MDGs, in particular, UPE. There were four main findings of the study. First, a number of learners in the COMSs suffered silent exclusion from the school although they were physically present. They lacked meaningful access to curriculum content. Second, for many learners who did not have meaningful epistemic access, this was the start of the process of their permanent exclusion from school. Third, there were gender disparities in access to education in the COMSs. The GPI showed that girls suffered greater physical exclusion than boys. Fourth, myriad challenging circumstances exposed COMSs learners to vulnerability to physical and epistemic exclusion. This study concludes that UPE cannot be fully understood without due consideration of local level factors that push and pull learners away from school. To this extent, a study of different forms of educational exclusion, as identified in this study, should be central to any comprehensive theorization of universal access to school education. The study recommends that there should be deliberate policy and resource allocation interventions aimed at creating opportunities for the achievement of UPE at local level. Further research should be undertaken which seeks to discover appropriate pedagogies that promote meaningful access to education for COMSs learners.



Education equalization -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, Education, Elementary -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, Discrimination in education -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, Inclusive education -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape