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5.       Making Sense of the Values Discourse Among School Stakeholders

Through both the qualitative and quantitative discourse analyses, several principal crosscutting themes emerged.  In this section we discuss four notable themes:

a.       Communication:  Learners and parents perceive a strong relationship between communication and values in schools;

b.        ‘Human Rights’: A hesitant relationship with a ‘culture of human rights’ among educators;

c.       Discipline:  A close association between ‘values’ and modes of ‘disciplining’ learners; and

d.       Equity: An emphasis on the material conditions of value construction, and the contradiction between material inequities and value formation in children.

5.1.       Values and Communication

Ø        As a parent, I’m glad of the way things went today.  The fact that we as parents can have a say in the education of our children – this makes me feel glad indeed.  In my whole life as a parent, this is my first time.

Ø        I’ve got here a teacher saying, “Sit down and shut up.  Don’t answer me.”  And a child saying, “I never get my side of the story to say”.  I am showing that kids are not respected by letting their side of the story be said or heard.

Ø        The teachers should listen to us because we are young and we’ve got great ideas.  There are some things that we’d like to do.

Ø        My first picture talks about a student who didn’t understand the teacher’s explanation.  He says to the teacher, “I’m sorry sir, I didn’t hear your explanation.  Will you please repeat it for me?”  The teacher says, “Where were you?  Did I send you to grow beans?”  This picture shows that teachers should have patience even if he [must] repeat it more often so that we can understand.

Ø        Sometimes the teacher will make a mistake of marking you wrong when you are right.  When you complain he will say, “I’m drunk to mark you wrong? I’m drunk!  Don’t ever say I put a wrong.  Don’t ever say I made a mistake.”

The most pronounced theme emerging through the research process is the relationship between ‘values’ and communication in schools.  There were several features of this relationship.  First, the workshops of all school stakeholder groups focused on the current lack of meaningful communication in schools.   Second, the lack of communication translates into a lack of shared understanding about values in the school context.  Third, the lack of communication in schools means that existing ‘values’ are not re-negotiated in the school context so that historic values still have momentum in the present.  Finally, many learners and parents define  ‘communication’ itself as a value to be promoted in schools. 

In all workshops, the discussion among learners, educators, and parents about values in education diverted at some point to a discussion about the lack of communication that currently exists in schools. Learners, parents and educators emphasise different places where the communication breakdown is most acute. 

Learners emphasise the lack of communication between learners and educators.  Approximately 15% of learners identified ‘disrespect’ in the form of a lack of communication as the most important ‘value’ currently operating in school.  An additional 60% identified other values associated with poor communication (humiliation, lack of kindness) as the most important values currently operating in schools.  They place a particular emphasis on the problem of ‘listening’ in schools.    The most common ‘negative value’ cited by learners in schools was a ‘lack of respect’ in the form of the lack of communication and listening between school stakeholders.  Learners not only feel that they are not listened to, but that they are silenced through the use of insults, humiliation, physical assault, and sexual harassment.  They describe communication as one-directional, and within strict norms of communication between learners and adults.  Learners perceive that educators consider more free-flowing communication between learners and educators as ‘disrespectful’.

Ø        Some teachers do have problems, but because we are students we just have to keep quiet and discuss things alone.  [We can] only talk alone and talk nowhere else because we fear that the principal will tell us that we don’t have respect and maybe our parents will blame us for not respecting our teachers.

Ø        Sometimes teachers can be fair, but mostly you get blamed for what you didn’t do.  You don’t even get a chance to explain yourself.

Ø        At times you are late for class and when trying to explain the teachers tells you it’s none of his business, it doesn’t concern him and he can’t hear.

Ø        Here at school we are treated as learners who don’t have rights, like on the farm.  At times when you are late you’ll find the teacher making fun of you and asking questions he shouldn’t and commenting that we are stupid.

Ø        My picture talks about teachers who don’t respect school children.  I’ve drawn a child who is late for school and she finds the teacher in class.  [The teacher] insults her and calls her names and when she tries to explain she is told that she is good for nothing.  The value I see is that the teacher lacks respect.

Parents emphasise the lack of communication between educators on the one hand, and learners, parents and the broader community on the other.  Parents most often identify the failure of educators to communicate clearly with them about, for example, the expectations they have of parents, and the progress and / or lack of progress of their children.  It is more rarely expressed as the failure of schools to take seriously issues raised by parents, such as the religiously-based objections to their childrens’ participation in certain activities.  Parents articulated an unwritten but rigid ‘code’ guiding how parents are supposed to communicate in the school context.  Parents who communicate outside of these codes, or who do not implicitly understand these codes, are either silenced or self-silenced.

Figure 5: Parents Emphasise the Value of ‘Communication’ in Schools

There must be communication between home and school…  Teachers would continuously inform and update parents about the academic progress of their children; Teachers would immediately notify parents of any problems; If a child is not obeying the teacher’s rule, the teachers must not give up on that child without discussing the matter with the parents; Parents would be involved in assessing their children’s school work; Parents would attend regular meetings at the school;  The community at large would know what is happening in the school…;  The principal’s door would always be open…;  Children would be free to speak and give their views…;  Teachers and parents would visit each other to talk about the progress of the children…;  Parents would be able to contact teachers at any time to discuss their child…

Parents link the lack of communication at schools with the absence of an inclusive sense of ‘respect’ between educators and both parents and learners.  While parents strongly believe that learners should respect educators, they are also concerned that educators should communicate with learners on the basis of basic respect:

Ø        There is a lack of freedom of speech.  Learners are not even free to ask a teacher a question.

Ø        Educators do not communicate with learners on a human level

Ø        Teachers use vulgar words to learners

Most parents also express the view that there is not enough respect shown for parents at schools:

Ø        Teachers need to humble themselves to break the barrier with parents.  They need to respect parents…

There is a sense among some parents that ‘the school deliberately shuts the parents out’.  According to parents, expectations are placed on them without being negotiated beforehand.  Parents feel judged when they fail to live up to expectations that were not explicit and that they do not feel positioned to meet.

Educators less frequently identified ‘communication’ as a ‘value’ per se, and focused less on the issues of communication with learners and parents.  Educators across all focus groups were focused on the lack of communication between educators on the one hand, and school management and levels of the Department of Education on the other:

Ø        It is important that the managers at District Offices should be involved at the school...  They should be involved and talk to the members of the SGB and learners and express their opinion. In that way, we can work together.

The absence of meaningful dialogue between stakeholders is evidenced in part by the often striking divergence between the perspectives of the learners, educators and parents.  As in the old tale of the blind men describing an elephant, each holding on to a different part, one sometimes wondered if they were discussing the same school at all.  While educators frequently express the view that the gap between their current and ideal school is not all that wide, parents describe an environment where they often feel diminished or invisible.  Learners go a step further – pointing out liquor bottles in teachers’ cabinets, rubber pipes in their desks, and recounting incidents ranging from insulting to clearly discriminatory. 

The absence of meaningful dialogue is also evidenced in a rapid instinct to ‘blame’ the ‘other’, with little understanding of the ‘other’.  Educators are quick to point to the ‘lack of discipline’ among learners and the ‘lack of interest’ among parents.  Learners and parents, on the other hand, feel ‘labelled’, with few avenues to be heard or understood. 

The need for dialogue is also evident in the variety of meanings attributed by different stakeholders to the same value.  While the ‘values’ that educators, learners, and parents desire in their schools are not hugely divergent, the meanings they attribute to these values are often different, and at times opposing.  For example, while ‘respect’ is a core value across learners, educators and parents, its expression can be very different.  For some learners, ‘respect’ means allowing them to ask questions in class and not humiliating them for making mistakes.  For some educators, it means learners do not speak unless they are spoken to, that they line up quietly and obey without question the instructions of their teachers.  A rural school in the Eastern Cape provides an interesting example.  In this school, pension pay-out days have become unofficial school holidays.  The learners in the school consider that their job of accompanying their grandparents to the pay-point to ensure their safety is a gesture of respect.  To the school management and some of the educators, however, such behaviour is an indication of a lack of dedication to, and respect for, their own education.  The divergent meanings attributed to values in the school context will be further illustrated in the section of this report that follows.

Related to the lack of the ‘value’ of communication was the link made in some schools between the lack of communication and the lack of ‘space’ for re-negotiating ‘values’ in the context of post-1994 changes.  Figure 6 contains a discussion between black and white parents at an ex-Model C school, where a white parent argues that a school has an existing set of values, and that newcomers to this school must accept these values, or find another school.  

Figure 6: Renegotiating ‘Values’ in Schools

Participant 1

Everybody needs to abide by the rules that have been set….


So if you come here you adhere to the values and principles of this school?

Participant 1

Yes, because I’m part of that. I believe in it.  I’m comfortable with it.


And if you are not comfortable with it?

Participant 1

Find somewhere else where you will be more comfortable

Participant 2


I would just like to add on that.  The school has a constitution with values and principles. … If you want to bring your child here you can.  In most cases they will discuss the constitution with you, and then it is up to the parent to put the child in the school.

Participant 3

But you find that if you look at facilities in the school, at the end of the day you want your child to get the best possible education.  Then you have to try and find it.  We know what the situation is in our [local] school.  So what’s the best thing?

Participant 2

But the choice is yours.  No one is forcing…

Participant 3

[interrupts] No!  No!  No!  The choice is not mine.  I am forced to get my child a good education.  If the school in my community is not up to standard, where do I send my child?  Every community should have its own school, so that I don’t have to drive my child back and forth from school.  If my school [in my community] is up to the same standard with this school, I won’t have to pay R200 for petrol.

The idea that values, and the behaviours seen to reflect them, are negotiated through dialogue rather than being fixed and prescribed, becomes critically important in the context of South Africa’s democratic transition.  As previously segregated schools come to represent more diverse student populations, the issue of ‘values’ can become a point of resistance to change. 

This debate raises the question of how values are negotiated and agreed upon at schools.  This cannot be a once-off, prescriptive activity if our schools are to be truly inclusive environments.  As communities change and face new challenges, both core values and the expressions of them need to be periodically discussed and re-negotiated.  In the absence of this explicit process of communication, ‘values’ become systems with the potential to continue to exclude and divide.

Figure 7: Learners Fear to Communicate in School


‘Sorry, mam.  I didn’t understand your question’…‘Wa, suka wena!  Nale le ndloko e kulu!’…And the student starts laughing to the one who was asking.

5.2.       The ‘Culture of Human Rights’

The values discourse among educators reveals a complicated relationship between educators and the concepts of democracy and human rights.  The concept of democracy and equity are – to a greater or lesser degree – embraced among educators.  Educators are concerned about the lack of equity in schools.[1]   Educators speak frequently about their efforts to increase the ‘democracy’ in their schools, particularly through the formation of SGBs and link ‘democracy’ with the values of ‘openness’ and ‘tolerance’ (see Section 6.2).  However, there appears to be a backlash directed against what teachers refer to loosely as the  ‘human rights culture’ or the ‘children’s rights culture’.

Ø        All these problems [we face] are due to lack of government support.  If there is support, all the problems will be solved…  The government should go back to educate the child to know the real meaning of rights.

Ø        The government gives children too many rights without explaining the role learners should play in respecting their teachers… The government is influencing our children not to respect their teachers and to lack discipline.

Ø        The students can’t handle the new freedom they’ve got and so they tend to become disrespectful.

Ø        As much as I appreciate government’s attempt to redress past inequities, I am afraid the manner in which this is being handled erodes the system from every direction … we have actually created a society of ‘rights’ resulting in a general compromise of authority, production, and general purposeful upliftment of our community.

Almost half of all educators responding to the questionnaire questioned whether or not the human rights values in the Constitution and Bill of Rights are ‘practical’ in the school context, while almost 80% believe that an over-emphasis on ‘child’s rights’ undermines classroom functioning (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Educator Questionnaire: Human Rights and Children’s Rights


The government puts too much emphasis on ‘children’s rights’, which leads to problems in our classrooms.


The human rights values in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights may sound good but I do not think that they are practical in the context of this school.


There appears to be a growing association among adults (both educators and parents) between ‘human rights’ and the undermining of power structures that previously maintained ‘order’ at the levels of family, community, and organisations.  ‘Child’s rights’ are perceived to undermine adult authority over child-rearing, leaving adults feeling ‘powerless’ to guide children in a world characterised by high levels of change. 

The ‘human rights’ culture appears to be associated with a liberalisation of norms for social behaviour, and an over-emphasis on the ‘individual’ at the expense of the community.  Adults in particular perceive a tension between human / child rights (with its emphasis on personal potential and development), and the community norms and values that maintain the fabric of social connection.   While an assumption driving the Working Group document is to encourage learners to ‘treat problems as challenges to be solved through knowledge and understanding, rather than as unbearable burdens to be endured without solution’ (DoE, 2000a: 12), many educators and parents appear to fear that this can work against values that have favoured community survival in times of hardship.  When water has to be fetched from a long distance, obedience becomes more important than personal expression on a day when everyone is tired.

The discourse is closely associated with both parents’ and educators’ critique of the end to corporal punishment.  The end of corporal punishment is consistently associated with the ‘end’ of discipline among learners.  There is a lot of nostalgia about the past, remembered as a time of ‘order’ and ‘obedience’, while the present is associated with a lack of discipline and chaos.

5.3.       Values, Discipline, and Punishment

Ø        This issue of corporal punishment has to be linked with good management.  If they say, “Do away with corporal punishment”, then our schools will never be governable.

Parents, educators, and learners all closely associate ‘values’ in education with ‘discipline’ and punishment.  For a large number of learners, corporal punishment and humiliation overshadow other aspects of their school experience, and often undermines their sense of respect and trust in their educators.  Violent and humiliating discipline was the second most common ‘value’ cited by learners in reference to values currently operational in schools.  Many learners found it difficult to discuss any other values at school beyond ‘disrespect’, which they associated with humiliation and physical punishment at school.

Ø        This picture shows a boy who is crying.  He has come late to school and he is being beaten.  These others are also students waiting to be beaten. 

Ø        Corporal punishment must be banned in our school.  Some learners don’t come to school because they are afraid to be punished.

Ø        I think discipline is really important, but I think a different form of discipline could be introduced.  Like for instance, if you broke a teacher’s cup, he will shout such that other teachers will hear that the student is being shouted at.  We try to respect them, but they don’t [respect us].  They even call pupils with bad names.  Sometimes, one will ask a difficult question and insist that he wants a right answer.  If we fail to answer he will beat us.

Educators made a similar association between ‘values’ and discipline, but as perceived by the disciplinarian.  A ‘lack of discipline’ was the second most common ‘value’ cited by educators as currently operational in schools.  Almost half (46.5%) of educators negatively associate the end of corporal punishment with their ability effectively to teach learners ‘good values’.  Many educators found it difficult to discuss the promotion of values in school outside of bringing back corporal punishment.  There was a sense of powerlessness with respect to inculcating values in young people in the absence of physical punishment.

The ‘powerlessness’ associated with the end to corporal punishment is also articulated by educators within ECD sites.  ECD practitioners raise questions about how, in the absence of corporal punishment, to make young children ‘behave’.  Even at this age level, there is a sense that values cannot be taught to children in the absence of corporal punishment.

Ø        Seeing there is no corporal punishment anymore, children can’t be disciplined.  We can do nothing.

Ø        Punishment is a hard one, because we are not allowed to punish a child physically.  I don’t know how we are supposed to make them listen at this age.  Growing children are very troublesome.

It appears that, for many educators, the elimination of corporal punishment without the parallel introduction of effective alternatives has profoundly shaken their sense of control in their classrooms and schools, particularly in the areas of teaching / promoting ‘values.’

Figure 9: Learners Focus on the Physical Punishment and Humiliation in Schools

Physical Punishment

Learners are concerned about the levels of physical punishment in their schools, and associate this with the value of ‘disrespect’.  They are particularly concerned about the lack of fairness and standards guiding educators who use corporal punishment.

Ø        One teacher will promise to beat the whole class if one learner fails to answer the question.

Ø        The third picture is the bad punishment that is used, whereby you find a child busy digging during school hours and not attending the lessons.


Learners are concerned about educators’ strategies to humiliate learners.  They associate these strategies with educators who do not respect learners.

Ø        My picture is about a teacher and a learner who is a slow learner.  The teacher is humiliating the learner by throwing down her book and saying what she has written is nonsense.

Ø        Over there is a teacher saying “Shut up you little morons!”

Ø        The teacher is insulting the learners.  She says the learners are monkeys.


Figure 10: Corporal Punishment in Schools



Representing: Corporal punishment spreads like fleas!

I’m sorry, I won’t come late again!

5.4.       Equity and the Material Conditions of Value Formation

Across workshops, there were learners, educators, and parents who placed emphasis on the link between value formation and the material world.  They appear to question the ‘space’ for the promotion of human-centred values in the context of the great inequities in society at large, and between, and within, schools in particular.  Parents were particularly articulate about the relationship between values in young people and the material conditions surrounding them.

Parents put forward a critique of the government in respect to the link between access to basic social services, and the facilitation of values in young people:

·         Can we blame ‘poor values’ for the early promiscuity of young people, when my family lives in a shack, where my children have close contact with their parents’ sexual lives?

·         Can we blame ‘poor values’ when my child chooses crime, when economic opportunities for young people are essentially non-existent for all but the most high achievers?

·         Can we blame ‘poor values’ on my child’s obsession with Nike shoes when the most powerful values among the economic elite centre on materialism?

These parents suggest that even allotting time to the values debate is diverting the government from its more important core task.   They suggest that if the government were achieving its more basic mandates, with particular reference to the provision of housing, jobs and a quality education for all, then ‘values’ could be more successfully navigated in the home environment.  One group of parents was so steadfast in their understanding of the material basis for values that they re-directed the workshop activities toward a discussion about how the government could better meet its development goals.

Together with parents, educators emphasise the relationship between values in young people and equal access to a high quality education.  Like the analysis put forward in the Values Report, parents and educators link the process of values formation with high quality education, capable of building the creative and intellectual capacities of young people.  They emphasise the relationship between the material provisioning of schools (class size, textbooks, creative programming) and the ability to achieve effectively the high quality educational aims.  They suggest that the practicality of many of the suggestions laid out in the Values Document (sports, drama, debating clubs, artist in residence) increases with access to at least minimal discretional resources at the school level.  Both educators and parents criticise the tendency to blame disadvantaged schools for ‘bad values’ when the underlying problem may more accurately be ascribed to inequity in the lack of basic social and educational resources.

Figure 11:  Linking Values and Material Conditions

Values and Basic Social Service Provision

Values and Equity / Quality in Education

Ø      I would like to involve and blame the government for the deterioration of good values in our society.  They promised parents employment, but failed to deliver.  As a result, parents lose control to their children because they fail to satisfy their needs.  Someone outside who is involving your child in bad behaviour becomes a role model. 

Ø      The lack of accommodation [is an issue].  People staying in a shack and having to share one room for the whole family.  There is no privacy.  Parents are forced to have sex in front of children.  As a result, children will try to practice what they saw from the parents with other children.  If they refuse, they start using force and power.

Ø      Unemployment and lack of opportunity lead to bad behaviour.  Girls start selling themselves and boys become criminals. 

Ø      Apartheid has done so much damage.  There is an imbalance between this institution and a Model C school, and there is a problem with the way that is being handled.  How can we be on the same path with no fence, no laboratory, no library?

Ø      My school is one of the inferior schools, one of the schools that was disadvantaged due to the apartheid system… [We are still in need of the most basic resources.]  The question is, is it the government’s responsibility or is it our responsibility or is it the community’s responsibility to close that gap?


Source: Parent and Educator Participatory Workshop


6.         Schools and the Working Group Values

In this section, we consider how stakeholders understand the six values identified in the Values Report; namely, equity, tolerance, openness, accountability, multilingualism, and honour.  The analysis from this section is drawn from the questionnaire data, where educators were asked to comment directly on these values.  At the end of this section, we comment on the meaning of respect and Ubuntu, incorporating both questionnaire and participatory workshop data. 

Educators, learners, and parents largely approve of the six values named in the Values Report.  However, their understanding of the meaning and implications of the named values in practice was not only divergent, but often at odds with the intention of the values as laid out in the Values Report.  Further, when stakeholders embraced one of the concepts suggested in the Values Report, they often named the ‘value’ associated with the concept differently.   

6.1.       Equity

The Values Document identifies ‘equity’ as one of the six core values for the education system, defining equity with an emphasis on redress, equal opportunity, and equal access.  When asked what ‘equity’ meant to them, educators gave a range of answers.  The two most common definitions framed equity as ‘fairness’ or ‘justice’ (28%), on the one hand, and ‘sameness’ / ‘everyone is the same’ (17%), on the other.  A large sub-group of the educators who defined equity as ‘sameness’ emphasised ‘not thinking you are better.’  A smaller group defined ‘equity’ on the basis of equal treatment (14%), and equal opportunity and access (10%).  An even smaller group understood equity to imply redress (Figure 12).

76% of educators (N=1178) believe that their school currently promotes ‘equity’, and 98% of educators believe that they personally promote ‘equity’ in their classroom.  Over one half of respondents explained their answer and / or provided examples at the school level (N=719) or classroom level (N=863).  At a school level, educators most commonly (43%) explained that ‘learners are all treated the same.’   A smaller group of educators (17%) explained that learners were treated with ‘fairness’ and ‘justice’.  A substantial number (31%) associated promoting ‘equity’ in the classroom with the range of strategies to promote democracy and participation in school life.  These answers were similar to those cited at the classroom level.  54% of educators said that they promoted ‘equity’ in the classroom by ‘treating everyone the same.’  About 15% of educators linked group work and the promotion of debate with the promotion of equity at a class level.  100 educators cited their specific efforts to promote ‘equal gender roles’ in the classroom.

The quarter of educators who said that equity was not promoted in their schools cited discrimination of learners on the basis of poverty, race, gender, languages, religion, and school performance.  Educators most commonly cited problems with the ethos of management as a barrier to achieving equity at school (37%, N=205).  Many cited an authoritarian tradition among school leaders; others pointed to what they perceived as ‘favouritism’, ‘nepotism’, ‘authoritative leadership’, ‘lack of respect’ and ‘discrimination’ within school management.  A large group of educators (26%) cited the lack of resources combined with the depth of the divisions inherited from the past.  A smaller but insistent group cited the lack of learner discipline and a growing culture of materialism (among learners and educators) as significant barriers to promoting equity in the school context. 

A small group of educators indicated that ‘equity’ was either in conflict with their own values (12%) or was not practical in the school context (15%).  Of the 83 respondents who explained the conflict between equity and their own values, 54 of them perceived that the concept of ‘equity’ was ‘misused’ and ‘misunderstood’, and  ‘used in self serving ways.’  A small but emphatic group (N=14) perceive ‘equity’ to be at odds with the promotion of ‘quality.’  Another group indicated that allowing pregnant girls into school was in conflict with their own values.  The educators who do not believe that ‘equity’ is practical in the context of schools equate ‘equity’ with a lack of discipline in the classroom and cite both the problem of ‘favouritism’, and lack of gender equity among educators and management.  A smaller group cited the lack of resources and challenges of languages in the classroom as practical barriers undermining ‘equity’ in the context of schools.



Figure 12:  Educators’ Definitions of ‘Equity’



Percentages (N = 1178).  What does ‘equity’ mean to you?  Open ended question, coded into themes.

Parents and educators closely link excellence in education with equity.  Educators closely link the issues of school excellence with issues of resourcing, and particularly equity in resource distribution.  Educators emphasise that ‘excellence’ in outcomes is not simply dependent upon ‘valuing’ ‘excellence’, but is linked to the availability of basic educational resources.  At the most basic level, educators list security, sufficient textbooks, lower teacher:pupil ratios and a feeding scheme for those learners who come to school without having eaten, as essential to a good learning environment.  They emphasise the inequitable resources rooted in the legacy of apartheid, and express frustration with the slow speed of redress to equalise basic inputs into education (Figure 13).

Figure 13:  Educators:  Emphasis on Redress

Apartheid Legacy…

Need for Redress…

Ø        Apartheid has done so much damage.  There is an imbalance between this institution and a model C school, and there is a problem with the way that is being handled.  How can we be on the same path with no fence, no laboratory, no library?

Ø        My school is one of the inferior schools, one of the schools that was disadvantaged due to the apartheid system.  I’ll be glad if my school can have good education facilities, buildings, a library, laboratories, teaching resources, text books and playgrounds for sports activities.  The question is, is it the government’s responsibility or is it our responsibility or is it the community’s responsibility to close that gap?

Ø        Going to the point of equity, most schools were affected by apartheid in a sense that most black schools don’t have enough resources, so the government should concentrate on black schools so as to have equal resources.

Ø        The government has a responsibility of the distribution of resources to address the legacy of apartheid.

Ø        There needs to be a redistribution of resources to all schools so that there is no need to send kids to town.

Ø        All schools should have developed school grounds, fencing, school buildings and toilets, electricity, computers, and a staff room.

Ø        What is done in schools should be the same… what is taught in grade 3 in a rural area should be the same in the urban area in the same class.

The most highly rated value for parents in education is the value of excellence and quality.  They define school quality as encompassing high pass rates, curricula relevant to the current economic environment, as well as the ability of a school to develop non-academic qualities and skills in learners, including decision making, music, art and sports

Ø        The desire of everyone around here is to see [this school] achieving more than this.  It shouldn’t be that children just study and pass, but if they are to move from here and go to tertiary institutions, they should be great thinkers.  We want the school to produce great thinkers.  In such a way the name of the school will be known whenever people go around so that people will know you were cook from a pot called [the name of the school].  We would like to see [this school] being on top of the cream, on top of the other schools.  That is the desire of most of us here.

Ø        If we are talking about learning, it should not end in the classroom.  There should be recreation and sports.  Children should not concentrate on books only.  They should refresh their minds.

Parents closely linked quality of education with issues of equity, and in particular ensuring all children have an equal opportunity to excel – through affordable fees, feeding schemes and uniform banks, and the availability of specialists to assist with the individual needs of each child (counselling, special needs, remedial help, etc).  Parents reject the simple equation between low pass rates in schools and the ‘value’ the school and community place on education.  They argue that until basic education provisions are in place, it is misdirected to blame poor performance on a school’s values. 

Learners were particularly concerned about better inclusion of all learners, and particularly those who come from poor households.  They talk about children being discriminated against for lack of school fees, a school uniform, stable housing, and reliable transport.  They talk about subtle ways in which children from low-income backgrounds are not treated ‘fairly.’  They support efforts to intervene in the subtle ways in which disadvantaged children continue to be excluded from school life.

Learners associate ‘respect’ with ‘equity’ in various ways.  While they embrace wearing a school uniform as a symbol of ‘respect’, they condemn learners who are punished on the basis of not having a uniform.  They are concerned about learners who are treated poorly because they do not have school fees, a clean uniform, or other school materials.  Learners associate ‘respect’ with equitable basic resourcing of schools.

While the Values Report places ‘Ubuntu within the broad framework of ‘tolerance’, learners, parents, and educators emphasise ‘Ubuntu’, but place it at the intersection of equity and compassion. 

Within schools, the embodiment of equity is seen to be actions of caring shown towards the most needy members of the community.  Across schools, equity is defined as the redistribution of resources in order that all schools, regardless of their location, are equipped to play on a level playing field.  Both of these ideas are closely associated with ‘Ubuntu’.

Across the board, parents, educators and learners express a strong desire to maintain the value of ‘Ubuntu’ at the centre of the school environment.  In different ways, people spoke to the need to ensure that all kids are fed, that they are able to attend school even if they can’t afford the school fees, and that there are mechanisms in place so that all learners can wear a proper school uniform.  ‘Ubuntu’ embraced the idea of ‘looking out for each other’ and a sense of compassion during times of need.

Ø        We have children who are hungry.  We cannot just reject them.  We help them.  There are parents who cannot afford, but we always take care of them.

Ø        Sometimes our teachers donate clothes for needy children.

Ø        We sympathise with learners and fellow teachers who are bereaved.

People speak with pride of learners and teachers who share their lunch with others, and of the generosity of all members of the school community when a member of the school community is struck by tragedy.

6.2.       Tolerance

The Values Report makes a conscious attempt to define ‘tolerance’ as a ‘deeper and more meaningful’ concept of mutual understanding, reciprocal altruism, and the active appreciation of the value of human difference.  The Report places the value of ‘Ubuntu’ within the concept of ‘tolerance’ (DoE, 2000: 22). 

While the Values Report tries to emphasise a more far-reaching understanding of tolerance, the majority of educators understand ‘tolerance’ within its most limited connotation.  46% of educators (N=1144) understand ‘tolerance’ to imply ‘having patience with’, ‘putting up with’ and ‘bearing’ other people and different ideas.  There was a strong discourse of ‘acceptance’.  An additional 32% of educators defined tolerance as either ‘accepting’ or ‘appreciating’ cultural differences and / or different views and opinions.  A smaller group of educators (12%) defined tolerance as reaching toward consideration, open mindedness, and understanding.  5% of educators defined ‘tolerance’ as ‘respect.’

85% of educators indicate that they think that ‘tolerance’ is promoted in their school, and 95% of educators believe that ‘tolerance’ is promoted in their classroom.  Approximately one half of respondents provided examples (N=718).  These answers were equally distributed into four groups.  One group of educators associated promoting tolerance with building democracy and participation in the school and classroom.  One group associated promoting tolerance with inclusion and a lack of discrimination in the school and classroom.  The third group associated promoting ‘tolerance’ with promoting ‘respect’ for difference.  The final group provided only general answers with no specific strategies (eg, ‘we try’).

Without naming it as ‘tolerance’, educators were asked to respond to the following idea at the end of the questionnaire: [3]

‘Some people say that schools should teach learners to fully accept all people as human beings.  They say that we shouldn’t just learn to ‘put up’ with people who are different, but come to a meaningful understanding of each other including a sense of caring for others and doing things for the sake of others.’ 

88% of educators said that this concept was not in conflict with their own values.  Those educators who said that the concept was in conflict with their own values did not provide detailed descriptions of the conflict.  78% of educators thought the idea was practical in the context of their school.  22% said that the idea was either not practical, or they didn’t know whether it was practical.  22% of educators thought that there were barriers to promoting this idea in their schools.  They cited poor management, lack of commitment and dedication among educators and / or learners, the lack of resources, and the lack of good parental support.  Over 50 educators said that the idea was difficult to implement due to the complexity of the diversity (language, religion, beliefs) of learners in their schools.

Across schools and across stakeholder groups, there was not one person who openly advocated for intolerance, or the return to explicitly discriminatory practices.  Across all groups, there was an equation between ‘respect’ and a lack of discrimination.  However, while school stakeholders were quick to align themselves with ‘tolerance’, there was widespread evidence of discriminatory practices and discriminatory thinking in schools. 

According to learners, the most frequent ‘value’ currently operating in schools was ‘disrespect’ in the form of ‘discrimination’ and exclusion.

Learners spoke most frequently about gender discrimination.  In every group of learners, both boys and girls talked about the difference in treatment and mistreatment of girl and boy learners (Table 14).  Learners call this ‘discrimination’ and ‘disrespect’, and cite examples such as greater cleaning duties for girl learners, greater physical labour for boy learners, and the sexual harassment of girl learners.  Learners widely agree that in general, boys are given harsher punishments for the same offence and are, in the case of sex-segregated facilities, such as toilets and hostels, provided with inferior facilities.  In seven of the ten schools, girls were concerned about male educators who made inappropriate advances to girl learners, and spent significant workshop-time discussing their concerns over the situations that this posed for them in school.




Figure 14:  Learners’ Concern for ‘Discrimination’ in Schools

Learners are concerned about gender discrimination in the classroom.  They call this ‘discrimination’ and ‘disrespect’, and cite examples such as greater cleaning duties for girl learners, greater physical labour for boy learners, and the sexual harassment of girl learners.   Learners are concerned about racial and cultural discrimination, particularly among learners.  At ex-Model C schools, learners spoke of the pressure to assimilate to a dominant culture and ‘make invisible’ their own culture.

Ø        Boys work harder than girls.  Girls are playing while boys are working.  We are not treated the same.

Ø        At times girls are getting special treatment from male teachers.  Even if they didn’t finish their homework they are not chased out of the class.

Ø        My picture is about teachers who want to fall in love with school-girls, which is not right.  You’ll find the teacher insults the school-girls and start calling them names if he is rejected.

Ø        Teachers have affairs with learners.  They are given money and that money buys the girl to go with the teacher.  They usually go to hotels and after that the girl falls pregnant.  When she tells the teacher about that, the teacher denies it saying it is not his child since he has never had an affair with her.

Ø        We don’t get the same treatment.  Teachers tend to accuse boys of stealing even if girls were responsible.

Ø        Small mistakes are always attributed to boys than on girls, especially bad things.

Ø        My picture talks about a teacher who confronts a girl about her beauty.  They end up sleeping together due to the promise that the teacher will make the girl pass, not thinking that maybe she will fall pregnant…

Ø        My picture talks about a teacher who insults a girl in front of a boy.  The teacher tells the boy the way she is and gives her bad names.


Strikingly, there was less discussion among stakeholders about racial discrimination in schools.  This largely reflects the current lack of integration in schools.  Table 15 demonstrates the percentage of schools in the participatory and questionnaire sample, and compares these figures with the national average.  Fewer than 30% of schools (within the sample and as a national average) have integrated (by ‘population group’) learner populations.  In reality, many of the ‘integrated’ schools are dominated by one ‘population group’, with a handful of learners representing the ‘diversity’.

In some schools, across race lines, there appears to be a ‘closing of debate’ among educators.  The patterns of communication and interaction among educators in particular suggest that educators were reticent to talk about differences across historical race lines.  Mixed race groups of educators socialised largely along race lines.  One educator explained, ‘we blacks still go home at night to stay in the location, and the white [teachers] go home to the white suburbs.  So while we work together we don’t know each other…’. While there is civility and kindness across race lines, there was little meaningful engagement on perceived differences.  Among white educators, particularly in the context of ECD sites, race was addressed with simplistic notions of ‘black and white, we’re all the same’, failing to understand or facilitate an understanding of difference rooted within our divided past.

While the discussion about race was not pronounced, it was woven into the discourse in various ways.  In the early exercises of the participatory workshops, participants were asked to think about a value important to their local community.  A large number of educators chose examples that implicitly defined their ‘local community’ along race lines.  There were a large number of black educators who chose ‘respect’ and defined ‘respect’ as attending neighbours’ funerals, pointing out that this ‘respect’ was not important in ‘other communities’.  After this exercise, educators were asked to think about “a value that other people may consider important, but with which you personally disagree”.  Again, many of these examples were selected along race lines, and according to racial stereotypes.  A white educator said that she knew that in ‘some communities’ the ‘extended family was valued more than the child’.  She said this was demonstrated when parents ‘did not take responsibility for their child’ and instead sent them to their grandparents or other extended family members.  She interpreted this as a difference between ‘communities’ where in ‘her community’ children were ‘valued’ more.  In the ex-Model C schools, where the student body is more diverse, there was more talk of explicit racism. (See Figure 15).

The lack of personal experience with truly multicultural environments, combined with a hesitation to speak freely about race in mixed-raced settings, means that many educators are not well positioned as leaders of anti-racism work in schools.

Figure 15:  Integration of School Sample as Compared to National Average (%)









Questionnaire Sample





Participatory Sample





Total SA Schools^





^ 1997 is the most current available data

In schools, the management who were interviewed individually were more quick to discuss race, and the tensions of racial integration in their schools.  In previously white schools, principals discussed the process of integration, citing the struggles – at times under the surface and at times openly hostile – that the school had endured to reach the external civility that currently characterised their schools.

Figure 16:  The Momentum of Racism in Model C Schools…

I just wanted to comment on a multi racial school in the Eastern Cape.  No one talked of race or racism, but there was a tone among educators that reflected a clash of stereotypes and perceptions rooted in our past.  These were the same educators who pretended as if race was not part of the reality of their schools, articulating a common line when race was raised as an issue, ‘black or white, children are all the same’.  But black children were regarded as ‘disrespectful’.  I noticed that some of the examples they gave demonstrated different understandings of respect.  They said that it was disrespectful for a learner to sing in the hallways.  They said that black learners did not ‘respect property’ because they never brought their own scissors and were always borrowing other learner’s scissors.

There was also a funny race dynamic about parental involvement.  White parents and white educators said that ‘black parents don’t care about education.’  Black parents expressed a hesitation to participate in school life because of unstated rules which they felt judged by.  There were all these ways in which ‘race’ was denied, and yet was living in the room…

Field Worker Reflection Notes

Figure 17:  The Momentum of Racism in Model C Schools…

After having spent many hours in participatory workshops, I couldn’t help but think about how powerful each session had been and how I wished we could facilitate such discussions around values in every school! I knew I was not alone in my feelings after hearing the pleadings from the learners, educators and parents to return to their schools to continue the dialogue.

Because we used tools that were designed specifically to facilitate personal reflection and group discussion, we were able to create an environment that was very conducive to the sharing of ideas on the complex subject of values. One particular former Model C school visit still troubles me to this day, long after my time spent with the learners, educators and parents has passed.  I arrived at the school around 08:00 in the morning and left sometime after 10:00 at night. I found myself wishing I could return early the next day to inquire more about how this school, which was beautiful on the outside and very well resourced, yet lacking many important values on the inside.

I began to notice this disparity between the outward appearance of the school and the inward actions during our very first workshop with the learners. After the usual introductions and proceedings of the participatory research, we stumbled into some pretty intense feelings of learners on the ‘value of racism’. When asked to list what values are currently in the school, one learner in particular, was adamant about the fact that the educators and administration discriminate against blacks. Though he mentioned several examples, his biggest complaint was in the area of sport.

We have rugby, cricket…but no soccer! He lamented. We have complained about this many times to educators and the headmaster, but they always make up some excuse. They’re just being racist and discriminating against us!

After venting his obvious frustrations with the situation, he went on to say that this is one of the reasons why more blacks get into trouble at school.  He explained that by not providing activities that blacks are interested in, the school is creating a situation, where by these learners resort to misbehaving out of boredom.

For example, he said that “some of my friends smoke and drink and get into fights, but they say there’s nothing else to do and the educators in the school don’t care about them anyway”.

He then stated how this perpetuates discrimination and racism in the schools, where by the white learners and school staff point out how there are more blacks with disciplinary problems.  If they would only show respect to blacks by listening to their concerns, and providing them with sport that they were interested in, this would go a long way to help end the bad stereotypes of many black learners in schools.

While listening to this young articulate learner, who was passionate about his concerns, I was reflecting on the idea of sport and teamwork as powerful unifiers and how this very well resourced former Model C school was doing a disservice to the learners. By not providing a very much desired sport, the school is promoting assimilation, the subtle form of discrimination that makes a certain race of learners feel marginalised, disrespected and hence, the school is missing a key opportunity to create an environment where unity can flourish.

Later in the same day we had a workshop with educators, and then with parents.  The educators’ discussion went relatively well, (although there was a lot of blaming ‘bad’ values in the school on lack of discipline and respect among learners and lack of involvement among the parents and ironically, there was complete agreement that ‘racism was not an issue at their school’).  But the participatory workshop with the parents at this same former Model C school was the most absorbing.

The conversations, drawings and debates were all proceeding very well with lots of participation and dialogue among parents. When it came time to have final reflections and discuss ideas on how to ‘bridge the gap’ between the ideal school and the current values in the school, one African mother in particular expressed frustration and even sadness at the continued amount of discrimination and racism that she felt existed in the school.

As this concerned parent entreated others to embrace such ideas that would help those learners who were in dire need of support (financial, emotional or academic) by reminding other participants about the many struggles parents face (transport, employment and high school fees) in order to enroll their children where they know they will get an education.  She then became very emotional and began to cry as she expressed her sincere fears about what kind of future awaits the children and youth who do not get our support.  She expressed a sense of feeling progressively overwhelmed by the day to day struggle of making sure her child received good treatment in the context of a historically white school.

It was the first time she was able to express those fears in the school context.  At the end of the day, while we were cleaning up after the workshops, I felt the importance of dialogue in this school – and hoped that an experience of deep dialogue would spark more discussion and listening in this school.                               Field Worker Reflection Notes


Some discussion about race and racism appeared to be alluded to in the guise of ‘culture’.  Parents commonly expressed the opinion that different ‘cultures’ were not equally valued at school, but were often reluctant or unable to articulate specific examples.  They often spoke of a sense of being ‘looked down on’ by teachers, and of being seen for what one is not doing rather than recognised for the contributions that one is able to make to the school.  Parents were also concerned about discrimination on the basis of language, religion, and ethnic background and cited more explicit examples in these areas.  Tsonga-speaking parents spoke about the shame with which their children were treated by other ethnic groups in the area.  Some parents admit to having encouraged their children to abandon their home language and claim to be Northern Sotho speakers. 

When parents, educators and learners were challenged to consider solutions better to promote ‘cultural’ respect at schools, they most commonly equated ‘culture’ with the external trappings of traditional cultures.   Suggestions included calls for traditional dress to be accepted in schools, for regular cultural festivals to be held on school premises, and for a variety of South African food to be served in the cafeteria.  One parent cautioned against equating culture solely with food, song and dance and neglecting the more fundamental aspects of custom and tradition.  However, for the most part the discussion of ‘culture’ and ‘race’ remained at this superficial level.

It is important to note that the contradiction between what educators say they value – tolerance and an inclusive environment – and the reality of many schools may be related to a lack of practical experience of such an environment.  In many cases, educators have had few experiences of a truly inclusive environment, and while they may genuinely see themselves as non-discriminatory, they do not have the knowledge or experience to lead the development of a truly non-discriminatory environment. 

This was well illustrated in the area of religion.  While educators on the whole state that their school does not discriminate against learners on the basis of religion, Christian prayers and readings from the Bible dominated all of the school assemblies in the sample schools.  When this issue is raised, educators explain that they do not discriminate against non-Christian learners because those learners are ‘free’ not to attend assembly.  Educators cited this form of exclusion as a positive indication of a proudly inclusive school, and no one was able to articulate an example of more pro-active inclusion.  At one school, a group of educators, talking about ‘respecting’ other religions, focused on their concern about embracing ‘Satanism’, effectively polarising religious beliefs as either ‘Christian’ or ‘anti-Christian’.  Many educators appear never to have been exposed to other faiths and lack a basic understanding of the major religious faiths practiced in South Africa.  For many educators, closely related to this theme was the close connection between ‘teaching values’ and ‘Biblical studies’.  Across schools, there was a group of educators who considered that their ability to ‘teach values’ is undermined by the lack of Biblical teachings in the school context. Thus even if educators ‘want’ to associate themselves with religious tolerance, they do not have the knowledge or experience to do so.


Figure 18:  Religious Tolerance in Schools

I will always remember a father of an Indian child in a workshop.  The school was primarily black otherwise.  He started the workshop clearly uncomfortable.  He was not confident, and later it came out that he feared being judged by other parents, or being labelled a ‘racist’.  He finally got up the confidence to express his concern:

My child came home thinking there was something wrong with being a Muslim – because the school does not have other Muslim children, and does not do some of the activities he knows are important to being Muslim.’

I realized there was an issue, and so I tried to probe the issue, and first tried to first allay fears of being labelled or judged.  He spoke at length about how the school in subtle and not so subtle ways made his son feel different and wrong for being of the Muslim faith.

In the educators’ group the issue of religious tolerance came up.  Educators said that they were Christian, and there was little being done about other religions.  They said they did not even know what to do.  One educators said, ‘The school cannot do any Muslim activity because we don’t know what to do – we cannot implement their ritual!’  They said that they were tolerant because they allowed Muslim learners to excuse themselves from the prayer time at assemblies.  They continued talking about how to teach religion in school.  They concluded that there was very little they could do because they didn’t know about other religions.

Field Worker Reflection Notes

Figure 19:  Prayer in School


The Values Report linked ‘tolerance’ with ‘Ubuntu’.  Learners and educators were particularly committed to building the ‘value’ of ‘Ubuntu’ in schools.  Though it is called by different names – Ubuntu, humanity, kindness, compassion and co-operation – parents, in particular, expressed a strong desire that their children learn the value of being actively compassionate towards others.  For parents, this value would be expressed by children who: ‘help people in need’, ‘assist people who have been in an accident’; ‘greet people, even if they do not know them’; ‘have sympathy for others’; ‘comfort and care for other children who are hurt or crying’; ‘share their toys’; and ‘work with others voluntarily.’

The Values Report links the promotion of tolerance with a critical approach to history.  The Report lays out three challenges linking history and geography to deepening democratic value in learners -- to teach human evolution as a way to combat myths underlying racial prejudice, to provide a comprehensive history of all South African peoples, and to stare down past abuses of human rights to understand the cause and effect of historical genocide.  The educator questionnaire probed educators’ support of these recommendations.  The majority of educators agree with these goals (Figure 20).  However, between 20% and 40% of educators do not agree with these goals (Table 4).  These educators represent a potential barrier to the realisation of these objectives.

Ø        The very important thing that I would like to share with you is that we should use approaches based on an African perspectives. [Educator Questionnaire]

Figure 20: Educator Questionnaire: History, Evolution, and Localisation of Knowledge


It is important to teach learners about oppression and genocide to ensure that this history does not repeat itself.


African literature is equally important, if not more important, than Western literature in our classrooms.




We should not teach learners too much about the history of apartheid because it will divide people.


It is not good to teach human evolution at school because it may challenge some families’ religious beliefs.


6.3        Openness

Ø        Thank you for the questionnaire, it has stretched my thinking! Democracy will benefit at the end of the day, which will benefit the nation.  Regards, Gavin Stone.  P.S. I prefer to put my name down so that I can be held accountable! For my statements.  Now, how is that for openness? [Comment at the end of Educator Questionnaire]

The Values Document associates ‘openness’ with an openness to new ideas and an orientation to knowledge-based problem solving, critical thinking, and debate.  Educators define ‘openness’ in four different ways.  The largest group of educators (41%) associate openness with ‘transparency’, ‘accessibility’ and ‘approachability’.  A manager is ‘open’ when decisions are made transparently.  An educator is ‘open’ when learners are able to come to him/her with their problems.  Closely associated with ‘transparency’, another group of educators (24%) emphasise ‘honesty’ and ‘frankness’ in their understanding of ‘openness.’  A third group (23%) directly associate ‘openness’ with ‘freedom of speech.’  A smaller group associates ‘openness’ with listening.

74% of educators indicate that they think that ‘openness’ is promoted in their school, and 94% indicate that they believe ‘openness’ is promoted in their classroom.  The majority of educators (58% of 511) associated the promotion of openness at school with strategies to deepen democracy and participation in school life.  Other educators said that schools promote ‘openness’ by ‘encouraging honesty’ among teachers and learners (14%), and promoting transparency and feedback mechanisms within the school (16%). 

Educators provided a different set of examples about how they promoted ‘openness’ in the classroom.  Most educators indicated that ‘openness’ was promoted in their classroom through group work, and ensuring that everyone has an equal chance in class (47% of 581).  Closely related to this, a large number of educators say that they promote openness in the classroom by making learners ‘free’ to talk about their problems (28%).  Smaller groups of educators say that ‘openness’ is promoted by sharing information (7%), admitting to mistakes (thereby role modelling ‘openness’) (7%), and ‘encouraging friendliness’ (5%).  There is a discourse of accountability woven into educators’ understanding of ‘openness’, with educators referring to ‘transparency’ and ‘admitting to mistakes.’

Without naming it as ‘openness’, educators were asked to respond to the following idea at the end of the questionnaire: [6]

Ø        ‘Some people say that schools should promote emotional and intellectual openness among learners.  This includes the importance of a scientific approach to problem solving, a strong reading culture, and a strong culture of debate and discussion.  It also means that learners should be given critical thinking skills and encouraged to ask critical and creative questions.’

88% (N=1129) of educators said that this idea was not in conflict with their own values in any way.  The few educators who articulated why the idea was in conflict with their own values perceived this idea to promote learner independence to an extent that could undermine the ‘role’ and ‘control’ of educators.  15% of educators said that they did not think that this idea was practical in the context of their school.  20% thought that there were barriers to promoting this idea, and cited these barriers as a lack of resources, lack of discipline among learners, an overemphasis on children’s rights, and a lack of committed educators, parents, and managers as barriers to promoting this idea.

The Values Report equated ‘openness’ with a quality and holistic approach to education – embracing numeracy, a scientific approach to problem solving, history, culture, literature, economy, law, society, critical thinking and creative endeavour. 

Learners, parents, and educators strongly concur with the Values Report that a quality education system provides critical scaffolding for democratic value formation in young people.  Across all workshops, stakeholders emphasised the ‘value’ of excellence in education, and the ‘value’ of learning itself.  While articulated in different ways, educators, parents and learners linked a child’s breadth of knowledge and confidence in her ability to learn, with the promotion of human-centred and democratic values.

Learners associate values in school with holistic schooling. While a quality academic education is their first priority, even in schools with a high pass rate learners, express a desire for learning to take place in an environment where dedicated teachers provide good role models for learners, where difference is not only tolerated, but celebrated, and where learners are free to ask questions and express their own opinions and questions without fear.  Additionally, they speak of the need for emphasis on the holistic development of learners by providing opportunities for them to develop physically and artistically, as well as intellectually.

Ø        Physical activity makes learners learn better.  They get more oxygen to the brain and learn teamwork.

Ø        Learners should be trained in art to create works of art to honour people and history.

Educators talk about the importance of the value of ‘excellence’ in education.  Educators define an environment that values excellence as one that is safe and clean, caters to the individual needs of learners, and puts all learners on an equal footing.  This vision rests uneasily with their overwhelming focus on authoritative obedience (see below).  The ‘openness’ as suggested in the Values Report – rooted in critical thinking, questioning minds, and creative endeavour – lay beyond the horizon of current reality in all of the schools participating in this study.

Whereas the Values Report envisions the meaningful engagement of educators with learners to stimulate good and penetrating questioning, a large number of educators struggle to facilitate any kind of questioning among learners (Figure 21. Whereas the Values Report emphasises creative engagement, educators remain overwhelmingly concerned with authoritarian order and control.

Educators, parents, and learners did not talk about critical thinking skills in relationship to values development.  When facilitators posed the question of how critical thinking relates to values development, learners were the most ready to support the contention that critical thinking and values were related in some way.   However, they talk about their hesitation to ask questions in class for fear of being humiliated.  They perceive that asking questions in class often leads to the teacher and other learners laughing at the question, rather than the question being taken seriously. (Figure 22).

Figure 21:  The Distance Between Reality and Visions…

It was at the end of one of the three-hour workshops with educators.  The group had started the workshop reticent, each explaining why they would have to leave early.  By the end of the workshop everyone was still participating, and extending the workshop with further questions.  As a facilitator I thought I would ask about their approach toward critical thinking skills among learners.  They did not understand what I meant by critical thinking – they wanted an example. 

I said, ‘OK, let’s say that you are explaining something in class, and a learner raises her hand and challenges your way of thinking about that concept.  She has another way of thinking about it.  How do you respond?’

There was quietness.  An animated and at ease group stared at their hands.  I waited.  One educator hesitantly spoke.  ‘I can’t remember the last time a student asked a question in my class.’

I was unclear.  I said, ‘Do you mean you can’t remember when a child asked a critical question in your class?’

‘No, any question.’

‘You mean if you are teaching something – let’s say long division – learners do not even ask questions of clarity?’

‘No.’ The rest of the teachers nodded in agreement.

‘Do all of you have the same experience?’  They all shook their heads.

‘How do you do it then – how do you know that learners are listening, let alone learning?’

Another teacher raised his head, ‘We know.  We know that they are not.’

Another teacher added, ‘There is one child who listens in my class.’  She mentions her name.  Other teachers shake their head and agree that yes, she is the one who listens.

‘So you mean you have the painful task of getting up in the morning, facing the most difficult task of being a teacher, wanting to make a difference in a child’s life, and knowing that no one is listening?’

Slowly others raised their heads, many of them nodding yes.

There was some silence.  One older teacher starts, ‘You see, we never get to talk like this.  I have never admitted this before – that I don’t know how to get these children to listen.  The easiest thing is to blame it on the parents – then we don’t have to think it is us that fail each day.’

There was a sense of relief that a long held secret was not only on the table, but shared by other colleagues.  A more animated discussion about having a similar values workshop with parents may be a starting point of working better with parents to improve their ability to relate to learners… 

Field Worker Reflection Notes

Educators express doubt about the ‘practicality’ of ‘critical thinking’ in the context of their classrooms.  Most educators did not substantially engage with the concept of critical thinking.  For those that did, they either felt that there was no time in class to cultivate critical thinking (Figure 22), that management, in reality, did not support their efforts, or that, because learners did not ask questions, it was not ‘relevant’.  One educator spoke of a time he tried to introduce more critical thinking within class discussion.  Despite the good reception from learners, he was criticised by the Principal for his diversion from the ‘norm’.

Ø        The syllabus is designed such that there is no time to teach human values.  [Educator Questionnaire]

Ø        I have noticed learners at our school have never really been taught critical thinking, and lack problem solving.  There is a new era of teaching awaiting everybody!  [Educator Questionnaire]

Thus, while educators did not reject promoting critical thinking as a bad idea, they did not fully engage with the vision, nor believe it was practical in the context of their understanding of teaching and learning.

Figure 22:  Considering Critical Thinking…


I don’t think it has any value, especially if you have, say, seventy students in your class.  It’s impossible.


So it might be valid, but impractical?


It’s very impractical, because you can’t go to each and every student and try to talk to them.  The time is short.




How many children would you say raise their hands in class?


Two out of the whole class.


…So the idea of a child saying, ‘I understand [something] differently from the way you explain it’ isn’t there?


No. And another thing we should think of is the time frame.  There is normally not enough time for questions.

Source: Educator Participatory Workshop

The Values Report suggests a clear link between values promotion in schools and ‘openness’ in the form of creative engagement, expression, and participation.  The report suggests a wide range of extracurricular programming designed to build democratic values in young people – popular sports programming, drama, music, other arts and culture, community projects, library development, popular history, debate clubs.  Learners, parents, and educators all support the intention of opening pathways for creativity, participation, and teamwork in schools. They emphasise the current lack of such avenues in schools.  The workshop processes in themselves revealed the lack of forums for creativity and participation, and the eagerness all school stakeholder have for these forums. 

Figure 23:  Highlighting the Importance of Sports in Education


Communication through sports


6.4.       Accountability

The Values Report emphasises the ‘value’ of ‘accountability.’  Within accountability, the Report emphasises the concepts of responsibility and excellence, as well as legitimate and vibrant democratic governance of schools.

The largest group of educators (44% of 1002) understand ‘accountability’ as the ‘ability to account’ or explain your actions and behaviours within a disciplinary system.  They say that when you are accountable, you will be able to explain your actions if they are questioned.  A small additional group of educators (6%) went further to say that accountability meant that you could provide satisfactory records and documentation to defend your behaviour.  A large group of educators associated ‘accountability’ with a sense of responsibility – both an internal sense of responsibility or ‘maturity’ (29%) and an external sense of responsibility and reliability to school stakeholders (15%).

83% of educators (N=1315) indicate that they believe that ‘accountability’ is promoted at their school, while 93% believe that it is promoted in their classrooms.  Educators who believe accountability is promoted in their school and classroom say that teachers are encouraged to be professional, and learners are encouraged to work hard.  A large group of educators associated accountability closely with upholding learner discipline.  The majority of educators said that ‘accountability’ is not in conflict with their own values (85%) and is ‘practical’ in the school context (83%).  Approximately one quarter of educators (23%) say that there are barriers to promoting accountability in school.  Educators say that the barriers to promoting accountability are the ‘people who don’t want to be responsible.’  They point to educators who come late, parents who ‘cover for their children’ and don’t hold their children responsible, learners who are ‘undisciplined’, and principals who do not do their duties.

While learners did not frequently speak of ‘accountability’ per se, they placed special emphasis on the importance of educators, in particular, modelling values in practice.  Learners describe how educators ‘preach’ one set of values and publicly practise another.   In one school, learners developed a list of the values they thought were present in their community.  Noticing that the list contained mainly negative values, the facilitator asked if there were any positive values learners saw in their community.  One learner replied, ‘There are good values in our community, but there are very few people who practise them.’  Educators preach non-violence, and then practise violence.  Educators preach discipline, and then arrive in class late, or unprepared.  A large number of learners spoke with passion of their desire for educators who, ‘walk the talk’ of their values:

Ø        Honesty starts with the school kids by doing their homework and then goes upwards, not only to the Head of Department, but to the Department of Education in whatever they are saying.

Ø        Teachers should be motivated to work.  They must arrive at school on time.  Teachers should attend classes. Teachers who beat learners should be fired.

Ø        Teachers smoke next to the children.  This shows lack of discipline by teachers.  This will encourage learners to smoke, since at the school is where one learns good values.

Ø        Teachers should not be allowed to drink and smoke with learners.

The Values Report links the value of ‘accountability’ with a secure learning environment (DoE, 2000: 43).  While they did not associate ‘accountability’ with security per se, educators, learners, and parents emphasise the importance of school safety and the absence of fear – both as a ‘value’, and as a necessary pre-condition for building positives values in the school environment.  They link safety to issues of ‘respect’, whereby a school that ‘respects’ learners and educators will ensure their safety.  They suggest several ways to build school safety - from physical infrastructure (fences and alarm system) to operational systems (security guards, providing transport home for parents from night meetings, and better intervention mechanisms for ‘violent’ and ‘unruly’ learners).

Ø        We need secure institutions for educators.  Our institutions are not secure enough and we are not protected.  Even the equipment that we have should be secured from burglary.  Lastly, we need protectional rules for educators to handle … unruly behaviour from learners. 

Ø        We are learning in crime-ravaged South Africa, which is affecting our school.  In a school, safety should be a value because if there is no security it affects the kids psychologically and demoralises the teachers.

6.5.       Multilingualism

The Values Report identifies ‘multilingualism’ as a value.  Past research and school migration trends have suggested that parents, given the centrality of English to the South African economy, have valued English at the expense of multilingualism.  However, in the course of talking about values, both learners and parents placed an emphasis on multilingualism, linking multilingualism to both deeper communication and understanding at schools, as well as deeper cultural confidence of learners.  Thus, even more than a ‘value’, parents in particular appear to consider multilingualism as a pathway to democratic values in schools.

There were some parents who were particularly articulate about the importance of multilingualism, and their concern that schools and the society at large are in practice, undermining, rather than supporting, multilingualism:

Ø        I would like to disagree with the parent who said we should stop teaching our children our own languages so that they can be employable.  South Africa is the only country in the world that teaches her children to master foreign languages such as English, and undermines their own languages.  It is time for our children to know their culture and languages; be employed and interviewed in their own languages.  It is a pity that our children in the land of their ancestors, if they can’t speak English it means they are stupid and can’t find employment…

Educators appear to support the intention of multilingualism in schools, but are more split on their definition of multilingualism, and the extent to which they consider multilingualism practical in the context of their schools (Figure 24).  Some educators were committed to multilingualism, and pointed to practical efforts to build multilingualism in their schools:

Ø        [In our school] we teach the children to be multilingual, because we have a lot of different cultures and children in our classes.  If they can learn to speak Xhosa, Afrikaans, English and Tswana this would be an advantage to them.

Other educators were more hesitant or evasive about the implications of multilingualism.  Almost one third of educators did not think that educators should be required to learn an African language.  A similar number did not consider monolingualism to impede access to knowledge. 


Table 24: Educator Questionnaire: Multilingualism


Teachers should all learn at least one African language.


The sole use of English can inhibit access to many forms of knowledge.


Educators were not asked to define multilingualism, but rather to respond to the following idea:

Ø        Some people say that schools should foster multilingualism.  This means that learners should have an initial grounding in mother tongue learning.  It may mean that in South Africa all learners should learn three languages, and at least one African language.

Almost one third (28%) of educators (N=1013) said that this idea was in conflict with their own values in some way.  Most of these educators did not elaborate on why it was in conflict with their own values.  Some educators said that ‘two languages is enough.’  Over one third (38%) thought that this idea would not be practical in their schools.  One sub-group of these educators say that the lack of resources makes this idea impractical.  A smaller group say that it is impractical because ‘only certain languages’ are spoken in their community.  40% of educators see barriers in promoting this idea in their school.  Most of them cite the lack of resources, and a lack of commitment to the idea of multilingualism at school.

6.6.       Honour

The Values Report emphasises the importance of ‘honour.’  The report locates ‘honour’ within a civic republican notion of national citizenship, emphasising the balance of individual and community needs.  The report relates ‘honour’ to a sense of pride in being South African.  While educators accept the proposition that schools should be responsible for building good citizens for tomorrow, (82% (N=1068) of educators are comfortable with this proposition), they do not associate ‘honour’, per se, with this challenge.

The large majority of educators understands ‘honour’ to be associated with ‘respect’, ‘being respected’, and being recognised and appreciated for hard work and achievement (67% of 1144).  Smaller groups associate ‘honour’ with ‘honesty’ (12%) and ideas closely related to ‘noble action’ and  ‘right action’ (10%).  There was a discourse of ‘accountability’ woven through ‘honour’, as ‘honour’ was associated with the active recognition of both achievement and non-performance.

84% of educators believe that their school promotes ‘honour’, and 96% of educators believe that they promote ‘honour’ in their classrooms.  At a school level, educators struggled to give examples of the practice of ‘honour’.  A large group of educators answered in general terms explaining the school ‘is trying’ (38%).  Another large group associates a school’s emphasis on ‘discipline’ and ‘order’ with their commitment to ‘honour’ (25%).  17% of educators cite examples of mechanisms to recognise effort and achievement.  Small numbers of educators cite examples of honouring elders and the community, exposing misdeeds, and freedom of expression.  Similar examples were given at the classroom level.  The largest group of educators associated ‘honour’ in the classroom with an emphasis on ‘discipline’ and rules.  A large number of educators associated the recognition of effort (16%) as well as praise and encouragement (15%) as ways of building ‘honour’ in the classroom.  A relatively large group of educators associated the practice of ‘honour’ with equity (14%) (and particularly with treating people the same) and ‘respect’ (4%).  Another group of educators (11%) associated building ‘honour’ in the classroom with educators setting an example through their own behaviour.  

The educators who do not think that their school is promoting honour, associate this with two problems.  First, they perceive that the lack of discipline among learners, combined with too many ‘rights’ for learners, undermines a school’s ability to promote honour.  Secondly, they perceive that educators’ achievements and hard work are not recognised or praised. 

While the concept was not always framed as ‘honour’, learners, parents, and educators continually emphasised the link between the recognition of effort and achievement, and building values in schools.  Schools that go out of their way to recognise effort and achievement were perceived to have more respect than schools that had no system of acknowledgement.  Learners and educators speak of feeling de-motivated when they go the ‘extra mile’ and it goes unnoticed. 

Educators were the most vocal in expressing the importance of recognition.   While educators feel that they acknowledge and celebrate the efforts and successes of learners, they feel that their own efforts and successes go largely unnoticed, that they are seen as ‘part of the job’. Educators express a strong desire for their extra efforts to be recognised within their own schools, as well as by parents and other members of the community.

Ø        Teacher’s work has to be appreciated by giving teachers merit awards.  The government should keep the working of the teacher at heart.

Ø        We want to be respected by the community [for the work we are doing].

Ø        There is great deal of recognition for children, but there is very little recognition for the teachers who perform extra classes outside the curriculum.  They work beyond hours and it is a great sacrifice, but there is no recognition. 

Ø        When children do things, they are acknowledged, but when teachers do things it is accepted as their duty, even if it’s beyond the curriculum.

The Values Report suggests that rituals and symbols of national loyalty are important to democratic values development.  In the course of the participatory workshops, there was no mention of the importance of such rituals or symbols in the context of the promotion of values.  When asked about these ideas in the educator questionnaire, a majority of the educators were in support of the suggestions (Figure 25), with greater support given to the display of the flag than to the declaration of a pledge of loyalty.

Figure 25: National Symbols and Honour


The national flag should be displayed at a prominent place in all of our schools.


It would be a good idea for learners to declare a pledge of loyalty to our country during school assemblies.


Symbols of honour other than the flag, and rituals encouraging honour other than the pledge were mentioned, mainly with regard to initiation rites (Figure 26).


Figure 26:  Respect and Initiation in the Eastern Cape

There was a specific issue of ‘respect’ and ‘tolerance’ raised in the context of schools in the Eastern Cape.  In the deep rural schools it was a big issue.  The issue is that once a boy goes to the initiation school he comes back with different expectations about how people should treat him – given that he is no longer a boy, but a man.  Boys also come back with different expectations about how they can treat others.  Almost everyone in the school was focused on this issue.  Girls were especially vocal.  They say that when boys come back from the initiation school, they do not treat with girls with respect any longer.  They said that boys think they are entitled to everything.  Girls say that they are expected to meet boy’s requests.  Some girls said that this leads to sexual abuse.  Young boys were also concerned.  They said that boys coming out of initiation school treated them poorly.  They said that they were fearful of these boys.  There was a strong sense that if you were a man, and had not been to initiation school then you were ‘less than a man’ and had no basis to be treated with respect.  There was one Principal who had not been to initiation school who had no authority in his school.  Boys and educators explained that a man who had not been to the initiation school could not expect to be treated with respect.  All stakeholders in the school, including the parents, were worried because this man could not govern the school because he could not command respect.  I asked them about what if someone comes from another group, like myself as a Sotho – could someone like me come and work at this school.  They laughed because they liked me, but said no it would be too difficult for me to work at this school.

Field Worker Reflection Notes



Figure 27:  Summary of Values Report Concepts and Understandings


Concept: Values Report

Educator Understanding                                           (N=1072)


The importance of equity with an emphasis on redress, equal opportunity, and equal access.

A large group of educators (31%) define ‘equity’ along the lines of sameness in character (17%) and uniformity in treatment (14%).


Mutual understanding, reciprocal altruism and the active appreciation of the value of human difference.

46% of educators define tolerance in its most limited notion of ‘putting up with’ or ‘having patience with’ difference, often emphasising the importance of ‘keeping your differences of opinion to yourself.’ 


Openness to new ideas and an orientation to knowledge based problem solving, critical thinking, and debate.

Educators define openness most commonly as ‘transparency’ (41%), truthfulness (24%), freedom of speech (23%), and good listening (6%).


Educator and learner responsibility and excellence as well as legitimate and vibrant democratic governance of schools. 

The Values Report concept of accountability is articulated by educators, but emphasised within traditional lines of hierarchical authority – the School Governing Body is not yet reflected in this discourse. 


A civic republican notion of citizenship whereby the needs of the individual and community are balanced; our sense of honour and identity as South Africans.

Educators equate ‘honour’ with ‘being respected’ and recognised for hard work, honesty (12%), and ‘noble’ or ‘right’ action (10%). 

Note:  Educators were not asked to define their understanding of ‘multilingualism’.

 Click to go to: 7. Current and Desired Values in Schools (Chapters 7 and 8)

[1] See Section 6.1 below.

[2] Or Strongly Agree

[3] The word ‘tolerance’ was not used.  A statement framed several questions.  Questions included:  1) Is this idea in conflict with your own values in any way?; 2) In your opinion, is this idea practical in this school?; 3) Are there barriers to promoting this idea in your school?

[4] Or Strongly Agree

[5] Or Strongly Disagree

[6] The word ‘openness’ was not used.  A statement framed several questions.  Questions included:  1) Is this idea in conflict with your own values in any way?; 2) In your opinion, is this idea practical in this school?; 3) Are there barriers to promoting this idea in your school?

[7] Or Strongly Agree

[8] Or Strongly Agree