Considerations of the Study of English Literacy Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa

May 17, 2019

* This is an original submission as part of my doctoral program in International  Education.  It is not in APA format as a Blog post and is part of my early coursework.  It does not represent my progression as an academic writer. 


Considerations of the Study of English Literacy Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa 


As an educator, I believe the goals of education are to empower learners to hope, dream, and envision a life of fulfillment.  However, supporting empowerment is not enough.  We must provide the tools necessary to achieve personal success.  The abilities to read and write are vital tools. 


My interest in English literacy education in post-Apartheid South Africa stems from the convergence of long-term pursuits.  One of my life's missions is to support underserved and oppressed people. In addition to this, I have an interest in sub-Saharan Africa and particularly South Africa.  


From my work in social services and as a teacher, I know literacy is a significant contributing factor in the development of healthy self-esteem, an individual's vision of their potential for success, and their motivation to succeed.  My work as a human and civil rights activist and my studies of Political Science and International Relations, have added to my awareness of the economic and social disadvantages and struggles faced by people when they lack sufficient reading and writing skills.  I am also mindful that corporations seek out communities and nations that have literate populations when they choose production and investment sites. All these factors contribute to my interest in this area of study.    


Personal Experiences, Presumptions, and Potential Bias 


While reading during this course, I have seen examples from South Africa that an individual's inability to read and write contribute to low self-esteem, insufficient self-advocacy, domestic violence, and poverty. (John, 2016; Kaiper, 2018; & McKay, 2018)  My presumptions about studying literacy in South Africa are that I will confirm my belief that illiterateness contributes significantly to on-going oppression in underserved communities where institutionalized discrimination based on ethnicity is prevalent. 


I understand that my presumptions and the passion I have for supporting oppressed populations constitute the potential for bias. I think I will be able to avoid the negative impacts of bias by remaining aware of its existence, listening to the feedback and advice of peers, and striving to look for bias in my actions.   


Interest to Sustain Study   


When I began my doctoral program, I understood the general direction of study I wanted to pursue.  The interest I have in literacy in this era of South African history was a starting point as I began to determine the topic I wish to research as my dissertation project.   


The research I have conducted for this course exposed me to several theories, research methods, and practical implementation techniques I was not aware of such as narrative research, peace theory, peace education, social action theory, and action research.  I am interested in learning about the application of these theories, research methods, and practical techniques in the practice of educating oppressed and underserved populations to reduce poverty and all forms of violence.  


Research Potential   


As I started researching illiteracy in post-Apartheid South Africa, I found it difficult to find research articles.  As I became more familiar with search techniques, I discovered research on the oppression of girls and women, domestic violence, self-esteem, educational motivation, the perpetuation of ethnic discrimination, and its role in sustaining poverty in the country.  


As searches resulted in more scholarly articles, I began to see overlapping research themes which coincide with my interest areas.  These studies introduced research questions and hypotheses which I want to consider further as I focus my studies.  I am confident that I have enough interest in literacy and other education issues in developing countries, and that enough previous research is available for me to develop a specific topic to complete my dissertation research project.   


As a student and professional in the field of education, I am motivated to add to valid and reliable research data and findings and to put this information into action.  Literacy education programming which combines new research with the accumulated knowledge and experience of previous efforts will inform and prepare educators and other service providers to improve on efforts to eradicate illiteracy wherever possible.   


Benefits to the Field of Education   


I believe the field of education will benefit from additional research into the causes and subsequent detrimental effects of illiteracy on both individuals and society.  More importantly, I anticipate combined research results will produce new practical teaching practices which will benefit humanity by improving the living conditions of oppressed and abused people in underserved regions.   




The negative impacts of illiteracy extend far beyond the individual.  Illiterateness carries consequences such as systemic poverty, political oppression, and missed economic growth opportunities.  As we learn from previous literacy education programs and gain a deeper understanding of the interconnections of cultural, political, religious, and economic factors which contribute to obstacles educators and learners face in developing countries such as South Africa, we will be able to help governments and local communities alleviate illiteracy.    


My years of formal education and work experience have given me opportunities to see the systemic problems in our society which result from illiterateness.  Each of these experiences contributes to my interest in literacy education and my goal to apply my skills toward the support of oppressed populations in developing countries, particularly South Africa. 




John, V. M. (2016). The dangers of educated girls and women. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 11(2), 184–196. 


Kaiper, A. (2018) “If you don’t have English, you’re just as good as a dead person”: A narrative of adult English language literacy within post-apartheid South Africa. International Review of Education, 64(6), 737-757. 


Kruger, F. (2012). The role of TESOL in educating for peace. Journal of Peace Education, 9(1), 17–30.  


McKay, V. (2018). Through the Eye of a Fly: Action Research as a Support for the South African National Literacy Campaign. Systemic Practice & Action Research, 31(4), 375–393. 


Pillay, J. (2018). Hope for the Future and Literacy Achievement in a Sample of Impoverished South African Primary School Children. Africa Education Review, 15(2), 32–48. 


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