Education and Outcomes: vocational opportunities in the rural areas

Education and Outcomes: vocational opportunities in the rural areas

“I do not wish for this life for my children. We can’t all end up being farm workers. They must be the generation that does something better with their lives.” ~ farm worker, anonymous.

No matter how much attention is paid to improving education opportunities in South Africa, improvements in less-privileged areas, including specifically in the rural areas, remain a vital part of the process.

In the past, people living in outlying areas often had to rely on farm schooling for their basic reading and writing skills. And more recently, rural schools have unfortunately suffered from resource shortages and poor infrastructure in comparison with urban schools. Changes have been slow, but there is new awareness, and changes are in the pipeline.

  • In the last few years, the trend has been to systematically close farm schools, and students have instead been sent to attend larger rural schools and boarding schools, considered able to present more comprehensive and cohesive teaching programmes. Even with the will to pay greater attention to education in rural areas, the task remains daunting.
  • New plans, however, put more emphasis on the environmental differences, and the fact that the biggest source of work opportunities in rural areas remains the agricultural sector.
  • Acknowledging that the developmental needs of the rural student should be seen within the special context of the rural setting, and possible innovations for employment opportunities that lie within that environment.
  • However, programmes should not create hindrance to employment by being too narrow – and the broader vocational scope offered within rural areas or cities – should not be diminished.
  • For instance, language of learning should encompass both mother tongue and English – the former easing comprehension into the curriculum, the latter opening greater opportunities for further studies at college or university, a tertiary leap that will require the ability to read and comprehend in English because that is the language of many text books at this level.

Teachers – training for change

Teaching in the rural areas can be both challenging and rewarding. Teachers have expressed the view that they need to be inspired and innovative to cope, coming up with different teaching methods to accommodate students. Nevertheless, providing teachers with better conditions and support, is a crucial priority, considering the difficulties they currently face:

  • overcrowded classes of sometimes over 80 children, which means individual attention is lacking
  • teaching multi-grade classes because of lack of teachers means trying to efficiently manage curriculums for up to three different grades at once
  • lack of text books
  • lack of basic service delivery with regard to water, sanitation, electricity and roads
  • often no network coverage so the valuable and beloved cell phone becomes useless, leaving teachers feeling vulnerable, as well as suffering social and professional isolation
  • lack of city conveniences and poor pay
  • curriculums that fail students because they are not developed in the context of their experience and understanding, ie: how do you ask a child who has never seen a train to write an essay about the Gautrain?
  • teachers are often faced with students who are only enrolled for school at ages 9 or 10, never having attended nursery or early grades to learn the basics, and teachers are expected to play ‘catch-up’ as well as cope with the daily schedule for other students
  • research material is often unavailable, and so teachers are further burdened with having to find a way to bring resource material to the school.

A process of transformation

To truly bring rural and urban educational processes into greater alignment of standards and benefits, upgrading of skills and capacities should be considered within context but also within the scope of post-schooling training and employment opportunities.

  • The establishment of small business, technical and agricultural training facilities would go a long way to helping students prepare for employment.
  • Vocational training is also vital for students nearing the last years of their schooling; knowing the types of career options that suit their educational capacities and environment, would be beneficial; offering practical advice and motivation for tertiary studies more practically within the grasp of rural schools, would be a way to bolster employment options and transformation.
  • But it’s not only youth that need greater infrastructure to help them find a future and purpose, but also the need for adult education offering new courses, upskilling and improved chances of remaining employed in an increasingly technological age.
  • A sustainable future is dependent on both youth and adult employment opportunities; jobs are vital for reducing poverty.
  • Building capacity for rural transformation would have to take into account issues such as food security, distance, lack of resources, and surrounding industry needs, including the very evident possibility for new ventures, such as those that lie within the emerging green economy.

Outcomes of vocationally directed education

If education includes the broader sense of employment motivation, and focuses students on the exciting possibilities that lie beyond their formative school years – with or without the need for tertiary education within their home environment – then growth and employment can be made more feasible, and the drain to the cities to seek employment (with often poor results) can be prevented with better opportunities closer to home.

  • Food production is an ever-growing demand, so focus in this area can only be helpful. Greater technical skills will be required by farming in the future, and keeping the eye on the ball in this regard would be useful for those students of that inclination both during and when leaving school.
  • The hospitality industry is vast and growing daily. Tourism creates new facilities such as restaurants and accommodation on farms. This opens up small business and employment in a number of areas, such as: providing toiletries for upmarket facilities like game farms and spas; bakeries in small towns supplying hotels and supermarkets; laundries servicing hotels, motels, farm cottages, etc; guest management; chefs; reception; game-driving, etc.
  • Animal husbandry can be taught on the job, learning how to manage and sustain agricultural animals with the right care, compassion and new, greener procedures.
  • Other tertiary-level educational options are widely focused, even for rural schools: wine-growing and making; irrigation and crop management methodologies; geology; mining; greening techniques and applications in farming; diesel mechanics, etc.
  • Associated small industries such as clothing manufacturing, leather work, ceramics, farm supplies and equipment, transport, tours, retail, etc. Wherever there are people, there will be something that they need – something which they can’t always supply for themselves.
  • Small-scale farming as small business development can achieve self-sufficiency with the right support, motivation and management.
  • Upscaling a business may require some learning or formal study, but if the owner is trained and experienced within his or her environment, very often a small farming business can be grown to benefit a family, and even a community.
  • And keeping an eye on that, and a steady hand on the tiller, is what we do at Casidra – project management that really achieves results! A success rate that leads us to believe that much is possible in the rural areas.

Managing projects, seeing results

Casidra is the acronym for Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas. Casidra works to implement and manage projects specifically designed to improve the lives of people and alleviate poverty. With our mandate as Agricultural and Economic Development within a Rural and Land reform context, we see ourselves as a catalyst for growth and sustainability, maximising outcomes by ensuring that we make a difference in people’s lives through effective project management.

Find out more about us at:


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