Mpine Qakisa Makoe

  • Experiences and conceptions of learning of South African rural women in a distance education context: A phenomenological analysis

    Mpine Qakisa Makoe
    Open University

    Session 3f

    Tuesday 4 September 2007, 10.10-11.10

    Research paper

    Themes: Widening participation

    Distance education in South Africa has been successful in increasing access for students who have been excluded by the apartheid system. Through distance education, poorer students who live in remote rural communities were able to access higher education. However, increasing access can only be successful if distance education providers understand the varying contexts and needs of their learners. This paper looks at the lifeworlds of 15 women who live in South African rural areas who by virtue of being distance learners share educational experiences of learning through distance. Giorgi’s phenomenological analysis was used to explore the social, historical and political frameworks that influenced the meaning they attach to their conceptions of learning. In their narratives of their learning experiences, the women in this paper were consistently struggling to reconstruct themselves as distance learners and as members of the community that put many pressures on them as “women in the village”, “mothers” and “role models”. Learning was analysed as a situated activity incorporating cultural and social issues. The lifeworld of the learners provided a composite picture about the distance learners’ beliefs about their own learning; their past experiences and how those experiences have impacted on their conceptions of learning. What emerged in this study is that students’ ideas about learning were viewed in relation to their hopes, frustrations, intentions and histories. The students expressed aspirations to help improve social conditions of people in their communities. They felt that it is their responsibility to use the knowledge and skills acquired in education for the benefit of their community. The context of the students’ life and their circumstances influenced their conceptions of learning.