Rural online learning in the context of COVID 19 in South Africa: Evoking an inclusive education approach


  • Bekithemba Dube University of the Free State



COVID 19, Rurality, South Africa


This paper discusses the challenges faced by rural learners in South Africa in the context of the world pandemic commonly known as COVID-19. Rural learners face unprecedented challenges in adjusting to a new mode of life and learning, the latter being characterised by the predominant use of online, learning management systems and low-tech applications. The paper is informed by critical emancipatory research, I used participatory action research. A total of 10 learners and five teachers participated via Whatsapp. The paper answers two questions: what are the learning challenges faced by rural learners in South Africa, and how can online learning be enhanced in the context of COVID-19? The findings suggest that, while the South African government is promoting online learning as the only alternative in the context of COVID-19, this mode excludes many rural learners from teaching and learning, due to a lack of resources to connect to the internet, the learning management system, and low-tech software. The paper argues that rural learners are critical stakeholders in education and in the fight against COVID-19, and they cannot be left behind in efforts to fight the pandemic. 


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Bekithemba Dube, University of the Free State

Head: Foundation and Intermediate Phase


Avila, M. & Gasperini, L. (2005). Analysis of the situation-MDGs, EFA goals and rural people in sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and implications for ERP. Working document prepared for the Ministerial Seminar on Education for Rural People in Africa: Policy Lessoons, Options and Priorities. Addis Ababa, Ethopia, 7-9 September 2005. Rome: FAO.

Birt, L., Scott, S., Cavers, D., Campbell, C., & Walter, F. (2016). Member checking: A tool to enhance trustworthiness or merely a nod to validation. Qualitative Health Research, 26(12), 1802–1811. Retrieved from

Bygstad, B. & Munkvold, B. E. (2007). The significance of member checking validation in

qualitative analysis: Experiences from a longitudinal case study. Proceedings of the 40th

Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences., R. (2012). Just education. Journal of Education Policy, 25(5), 681–681.

Cornwall, A, & Jewkes, R. (1995). What is participatory action research? Social Science and Medicine 41, 1666–1676.

Cristobal-Fransi, E., Montegut-Salla, Y., Ferrer-Rosell, B., & Daries, N. (2020). Rural cooperatives in the digital age: An analysis of the Internet presence and degree of maturity of agri-food cooperatives' ecommerce. Journal of Rural Studies, 74, 55–66. Retrieved from

David, R., Pellini, A., Jordan, K & Phillips, T. (2020). Education during the COVID-19 crisis. Opportunities and constraints of using EdTech in low-income countries. Policy Brief. EdTechHub. Available at

De Clercq, F. (2013). Professionalism in South African education: The challenges of developing teacher professional knowledge, practice, identity and voice. Journal of Education, 57, 31-53.

Demirovic, A. (2009, July). Foucault, Gramsci and critical theory: Remarks on their relationship Presentation at Workshop 2: Foucault and critical realism: Marx, Gramsci and Foucault, at the Cultural Political Economy Research Cluster of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Lancaster University. Retrieved from

Dieltiens, V. 2008. As long as the rain still falls we must cultivate: Africanist challenges to liberal education. Journal of Education, 45, 29-42.

Du Plessis, P. & Mestry, R. (2019). Teachers for rural schools – a challenge for South Africa. South African Journal of Education, 39(1), 1-9.

Ebrahim, S. H., Ahmed, Q. A., Gozzer, E., Schlagenhauf, P., & Memish, Z. A., (2020). Covid-19 and community mitigation strategies in a pandemic. BMJ, 2020(368), 1066. Retrieved from

Education, 57(2013), 31-53.

Fritz, K. (2008). Ethical issues in qualitative research. Bloomberg: Johns Hopkins University.

Geduld, D. & Sathorar, H. (2016). Leading curriculum change: Reflections on how Abakhwezeli stole the fire. South African Journal of Education, 36(4), 1-13. Retrieved from

Gunawan, J. (2015). Ensuring trustworthiness in qualitative research. Belitung Nursing

Journal, 1(1), 4,11., K. (2019). Urban-rural distribution. Children Count. Statistics on children in South Africa. Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town. Retrieved from

Kemmis, S, and McTaggart, R. 2007. Communicative action and public sphere. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 559–603). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage,

Komives, S. R., Lucas, N., & McMahon, T. R. (2013). Exploring leadership: For college students who want to make difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Koopman, O. (2013). Teachers' experiences of implementing the further education and training (FET) science curriculum. Unpublished PhD thesis. Stellenbosch, South Africa: Stellenbosch.

Krishnakumar, B. & Rana. S. (2020). COVID 19 in INDIA: Strategies to

combat from combination threat of life and livelihood, Journal of

Microbiology, Immunology and Infection,, S., Harper, C., & Marcus, R. (2003). Research for development. London: Sage.

Loewenson, R., Laurell, A. C., Hogstedt, C., D’Ambruoso, L., & Shroff, Z. (2014). Participatory action research in health systems: A methods reader. Harare: TARSC, AHPSR, WHO, IDRC Canada, EQUINET.

Mahlomaholo, S. (2009). Critical emancipatory research and academic identity. Africa Education Review, 6(2), 224–237.

Mahlomaholo, S. G. (2013). Naivety of empiricism versus complexity of bricolage in creating sustainable learning environments. Proceedings of International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation. 18-20 November 2013, Seville, Spain.

Mag, A.G., Sinfield, S., & Burns, T. (2017). The benefits of inclusive education: new challenges for university teachers. MATEC Web of Conferences, 121, p. 12011. doi:10.1051/matecconf/201712112011

Mbatha, M. G. (2016). Teachers’ experiences of implementing the curriculum and assessment policy statement (CAPS) in Grade 10 in selected schools at Ndwedwe in Durban. Unpublished Master’s dissertation. Unisa, Pretoria.

McKernan, J. A. (2013). The origins of critical theory in education: Fabian socialism as social reconstructionism in nineteenth century Britain. British Journal of Educational Studies, 61(4), 417–433.

McLaughlin, N. (1999). Origins myths in the social sciences: Fromm, the Frankfurt School and the emergence of critical theory. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 24(1), 109–139.

Ngwenyama, O. K. (1991). The critical social theory approach to information systems: Problems and challenges. In H-E. Nissen, H. K. Klein, & R. A. Hirschheim (Eds.), Information systems research: Contemporary approaches and emergent traditions (pp. 267–280). Amsterdam, Netherlands: NorthHolland Nkoane, M. M. (2010). Critical liberatory, inclusive pedagogy: Arguing for a zero defect. Acta Academica, 43(4), 111–126.

Nkoane, M. M. (2013). Creating sustainable postgraduate supervision learning environments through critical emancipatory research. TD: The Journal of Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa, 9(3), 393–400.

Oloruntegbe, K. O. & Collins, K. M. T. (2011). Teachers’ involvement, commitment and innovativeness in curriculum development and implementation. Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies, 2(6), 443-449.

Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2007). A typology of mixed methods: Sampling designs in social science research. The Qualitative Report, 12(2), 281-316. Retrieved from

Parliamentary Monitoring Group (2015). Rural schooling/multi-grade schools/farms schools/non-viable schools; inclusive education implementation; special needs schools. Department briefing. Meeting summary. 23 June 2015. Retrieved from

Quyen, N. T. D. & Khairani, A. Z. (2017). Reviewing the challenges of implementing formative assessment in Asia: The need for a professional development program. Journal of Social Science Studies, 4(1), 160-178. Retrieved from

Rogers, Y. (2012). HCI theory: classical, modern, and contemporary. Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Informatics, 5(2012), 1–129.

Schmidt, J. (2007). The eclipse of reason and the end of the Frankfurt School in American schools. American Educational Research Journal, 33, 757–798.

Schwartz, M. (2006). For whom do we write the curriculum? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 38(4), 449–457. Retrieved from

Shibeshi, A. (2006). Education for rural people in Africa. Paris: FAO/IIEP.

Sinnerbrink, R. (2012). Critical theory as disclosing critique: A response to Kompridis. Constellations, 19(3), 370–381.

Stabback, P. (2011). What Makes a Quality Curriculum? In-Progress Reflection No. 2 on "Current and

Critical Issues in Curriculum and Learning" Geveva: UNESCO International Bureau of EducationWorld Bank (2018). Education in South Africa.

World Bank. (2020). Remote learning and COVID-19. The use of educational technologies at scale

across an education system as a result of massive school closings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to enable distance education and online learning. Revised draft 16 March 2020. Retrieved from




How to Cite

Dube, B. (2020). Rural online learning in the context of COVID 19 in South Africa: Evoking an inclusive education approach. Multidisciplinary Journal of Educational Research, 10(2), 135–157.