Academic journal article Reading & Writing

Teaching of Writing in Two Rural Multigrade Classes in the Western Cape

Academic journal article Reading & Writing

Teaching of Writing in Two Rural Multigrade Classes in the Western Cape

Article excerpt


To improve social cohesiveness of all South Africans in a non-discriminating society, the South African Manifesto on Values, Education and Democracy (South Africa, Department of Education 2001a) was drafted. This document and the White Paper 6 (South Africa, Department of Education 2001b) sketch democratic values for youthful South Africans in the learning environment to eradicate oppression and social injustices. From both these documents, social justice, equity, and equality emerge as three of the most important values that teachers, learners, and families strive to realise. Johnston (2010:20) states that we live in a multi-cultural society with laws that promise equal rights to all: the right to be as free as possible of biases based on ethnic group, gender, nationality, religion, socio-economic condition, sexual orientation, or disability.

Although multigrade schools account for approximately 30% of all primary schools in South Africa, many multigrade rural children do not receive equal access to quality education (Bloch 2009, 2010; Taylor 2008). The reality is that many South Africans living in poverty, which is widespread, are vulnerable, powerless, and isolated (Pretorius & Mampuru 2007; Prinsloo 2005). Multigrade teaching is often established as a result of necessity; often the result of political or educational rationalisation (Brunswic & Valerien 2004), population density resulting from ruralurban migration, excessive numbers of learners in certain grades, and competition for schools that are seen by parents as being more desirable.

According to Potgieter (2010), they found that teachers in multigrade classes are neither qualified nor able to provide quality education to learners. It is particularly difficult to educate rural children: they come to school hungry despite the feeding schemes in many South African schools; lack of physical resources and learning materials as well as overcrowded classrooms further block the road to literacy.

Taylor (2008) states that, despite some criticism from the public, teachers are dedicated and work hard. Multigrade teachers face severe challenges and difficulties unlike monograde classrooms (Beukes 2006). They need to plan and prepare for more than one grade per lesson. In Namibia, Beukes (2006) shared the challenges multigrade schools face such as: little or no guidance for the teaching of combination grades, inconsistent learner attendance, teachers' lack of classroom management skills, mother-tongue influences, grouping, and time management.

Hlalele (2012:269) attempts to define the concept 'rural' but states that the true meaning of the word eludes us due to its ambiguous connotations and the obvious comparison with 'urban' contexts. She suggests that rural dwellers work in agriculture, often for meagre rates of compensation, face barriers to learning, and operate in less than favourable policy environments. Czerniewicz and Brown (2014) concur with Hlalele by explaining that rural schools continue to experience poor learning conditions.

When endeavouring to describe 'multigrade' schools, Little (2007) highlights the most common terms such as combination class, composite class, mixed or multi-age teaching, and mixed-year or grade classes. Despite the many challenges found in multigrade classrooms, Little (2005:6) found that friendship patterns, self-concept, self-esteem, cognitive and social development were more favourable in multigrade schools. Therefore, a constructivist ethos is ideal in multigrade classrooms where teachers guide children, and children guide their peers towards their own independent learning and writing.

The aim of this research project was to contribute to the limited national information about writing practices in a South African rural multigrade context. The researcher attempted to understand how Cambourne's theory of social constructivism, particularly his four instructional principles, were applied to the teaching of writing in two rural multigrade Foundation Phase classrooms in the Western Cape. …

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