Exploring how the national COVID-19 pandemic policy and its application exposed the fault lines of educational inequality

Keywords: Educational policy, educational inequality, critical policy analysis, repositioning


In the wake of Covid-19, a flurry of surveys in education were conducted. These revealed alarming statistics about most learners losing half of the academic year, parents’ angst about sending children to school, and a small fraction of higher education institutions being able to leverage affordances of technology for effective online teaching and learning. As our right to breathe, eat and learn became suffocated, we were urged to re-imagine possibilities for resurrection, for mitigating current and future education “losses”. Deafened by the varied cacophony from teacher and student unions, school governing body representatives, scientists and education experts, the government with its departments of education decided to close education institutions and this coincided with the hard lockdown. Against this background, we use the lens of critical policy analysis (CPA), to explore the decision-making of education departments.  In this qualitative study, a critical lens was used to reveal the magnification of the fault lines of educational iniquity and inequity as departments of education made decisions to close and reopen institutions. Multiple data generation methods included a key informant interview with a senior official from the Department of Education, a survey among school personnel, and document analysis. The findings revealed a tension between expectations of producers of policy and recipients of policy, within unequal school settings. A repositioning, by peering through the lens of the dispossessed to inform future policy, is recommended.

Author Biographies

Ronicka Mudaly, UKZN
Ronicka Mudaly is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. A quest for a science education which is socially just and more relevant, inform her pedagogy. Her current interests include humanist approaches in science education from a Freirean perspective, indigenizing education, gender studies and youth empowerment through research.
Vimolan Mudaly, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Prof Vimolan Mudaly is a full Professor of Mathematics Education and the Deputy Academic Leader for the Mathematics and Computer Science Cluster, in the School of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Prof Mudaly has been recognized as a Top 30 Most Published Researcher in 2017 by the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His research interests center around teacher education and focuses on visualization, the use of technology, decolonization, and the use of pedagogic strategies in mathematics and science education. He has published more than 37 papers and book chapters and, he has graduated 30 masters and doctoral students.