In South Africa, pre-service teachers enter education programmes with diverse preunderstandings
of the teaching profession. For some, their experiences are often
naively divorced from a genuine understanding of how present-day education
perpetuates patterns of poverty and privilege. Responding to the pedagogical
challenge of framing problems of social injustice in relation to the profession, we
designed a school visit project to expose first-year pre-service teachers to school
environments that represent the exciting inequities in educational experiences and
opportunities. In this article we comment on the written group assignments that
followed from the small-group discussions which were held after the school visit.
Located within a lifelong learning framework, we proceed from the assumption that
discussion in a group with support will afford students the opportunity to position
themselves in relation to the grave inequalities embedded in South African education.
Data obtained were analysed by means of open and axial coding to comment on the
salient issues the students discussed, the issues they wanted further clarification on,
and the opportunities they envisaged to engage with and act on. We found that,
although the small-group discussions succeeded in setting a critical reflective process
into motion, a space was not created for students to uncover and challenge their
deep-seated assumptions that stem from a specific historical and cultural context.