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Learner councillors’ perspectives on learner participation

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Abstract:

Learner participation in South Africa was legislated in 1996 through the South African Schools Act, No. 84. Since then it has been a legal requirement to establish representative councils of learners (RCL) at secondary schools (with Grade 8 and higher) countrywide. I investigate the perspectives and experiences of participation with secondary schools learners elected to serve in representative councils of learners and school governing bodies. I adopted an interpretive qualitative methodology. In-depth interviews and focus groups were used. Three categories of experiences emerged: (1) learning experiences, (2) relational experiences, and (3) challenges faced by learner councillors. The data further suggest that there is an opportunity for learners to gain skills that could be useful for them. I offer a framework for learner participation that is grounded in social learning to promote meaningful participation.

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