The pursuit of social justice through educational policy for poor, rural and special needs learners in South Africa
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Since 1994, the South African government has promulgated large-scale policy overhauls to redress the segregated and unequal apartheid era education system. Despite some progress, the system continues to exhibit inequality. Through a textual analysis, this chapter analyses and critically refects on 20 pieces of education policy and legislation promulgated from 1994 to 2019. Using the conceptual lens of social justice and focusing on vulnerable groups of learners who come from poor households, live in rural areas, or have special needs, we identify aspects that facilitate and hinder the achievement of social justice in terms of what is being provided to learners. The government has made strides in addressing some of the inequalities, such as improved access to schooling and giving policy attention to learners with special needs. However, some policy goals are symbolic and have led to the unintended consequences of fostering inequality in educational provision. There are shortcomings with respect to policy attention for rural learners and lack of implementation of special needs policy. We recommend that implemented policies explicitly pursue a social justice agenda to ensure that all learners are accommodated in the new schooling landscape, and to ensure that disempowered and vulnerable learners are not left further behind.