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Social protection through higher education: experiences of Community Work Programme participants studying for a teaching qualification by distance education mode.

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Poverty and unemployment have led to the creation of social protection programmes by governments, which include public works programmes. In South Africa, the Community Work Programme (CWP) employs rural individuals living in poverty for a limited number of days each month as part of a second economy strategy project. To improve the chances of these participants to find full-time employment in the primary economy, the CWP partnered with North-West University and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to pilot a programme for selected participants to enrol for a Grade R teaching diploma by distance education. CWP participants in the Ugu District in the province of KwaZulu-Natal were selected. While studying, the participants worked at rural schools near their homes as CWP participants. This study sought to explore the experiences of the participants in the pilot before the project went to scale. Informed by the critical paradigm, the study used the extended case method, drawing on Bourdieu's field theory and Archer's concepts of structure, culture and agency for analysis. The study found that while rural participants experienced barriers in terms of physical and epistemic access to higher education, with adequate support many succeeded in earning their qualification and finding employment in the primary economy as teachers. Inherent challenges included the digital illiteracy of participants; travel distances and transportation costs; communication between partners and participants in the pilot; symbolic violence related to the language of teaching and learning; instability in the implementing structure resulting in diminished support for participants; and bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of alignment on the part of the partners to the programme. The exercise of agency was key to participants' success. The Work Integrated learning modules demonstrated complementarity between the requirements of the formal diploma qualification and the CWP requirement for useful work, although the increase in workdays as a teacher assistant reduced the time available for participants to study. The thesis contributes to the debate on Sustainable Development Goal 1 on strategies to end world poverty. The thesis argues that public works programmes can contribute to reducing unemployment with deliberate structuring of support and mentorship to enable students to acquire the higher education habitus required to succeed.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.