Teachers' understanding of social justice in rural education schools in the Overberg education district in the Western Cape : a grounded theory approach
Social justice is embedded in the South African constitution and various policy documents as an important concept and vision for a democratic South Africa. Yet, twenty two years after democracy, South African society reflects the entrenched racial and class divisions of the past. The educational context mirrors the persistence of historical, political and social patterns of advantage and disadvantage. The position taken in this study is that social justice and social injustice are inextricably linked. This study is based on the premise that, in order to understand social justice, social injustice needs to be understood and articulated. This study was situated in a rural education district where past unequal spatial, educational and social stratifications persist. The study was conducted in four rural schools to explore twelve primary school teachers' onto-epistemological assumptions of the world and their interpretations and meanings of social justice and injustice. Three related lenses, social justice, spatial justice and epistemic injustice were used to theoretically frame the study. Teachers' life histories were explored using a grounded theory approach as methodology. A three phased reflective process was used to explore and deepen understandings of social justice. The findings suggest that the perpetuation of past injustices and inequalities are based on deeply held different racialised understandings of social justice and injustice, resulting in racially situated narratives of social justice and injustice. The present narratives of who should be taught by whom, where and what should be taught also contribute to the perpetuation of racially situated narratives and injustices. Through dialogue teachers were able to deepen their understandings of their own experience and gain insight into the experiences of the 'othe'. A further position taken in this study is that in social justice research the researcher is not neutral. This study explored the role of the social justice researcher and drew learnings of the socially just researcher as a reflexive and 'just listener'. The study makes recommendations for further socio-spatial-epistemic justice research and for its inclusion in pre-and in-service teacher courses as extensions of the development of a critical discourse on social justice in South African education.