Policy & Practice - A Development Education Review



Empowering Teachers as Agents of Social Cohesion: Continuing Professional Development in Post-Apartheid South Africa


Joyce Raanhuis

Abstract: Development education (DE) has become increasingly crucial in equipping teachers and learners for a socially just world.  Educational efforts towards social justice (SJ) emphasise the need to provide teachers and learners with knowledge, skills, and attitudes to promote positive action.  This article explores one continuing professional development (CPD) programme in South Africa to promote social cohesion (SC) in schools and classrooms.  Drawing upon the experiences of ten teachers who attended this programme, the article analyses the ways in which this programme capacitated them to become active agents of transformation and change.  The article argues that, whilst the programme was received positively by the teachers, the efficacy of the programme in supporting teachers to become change agents is constrained by their context and the dynamics of programme delivery. 

Key words: Development Education; Social Justice; Continuing Professional Development; Formal Education; Social Cohesion; Teachers; South Africa.

Introduction: development education and social justice

There are different perspectives on how elements of DE, with its emphasis on SJ, are understood.  Education as an equity-oriented lifelong process is also stressed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as Goal 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  Perspectives from the global South highlight the connection between DE and SJ as the lifelong process of learning and unlearning, concerned with the process of beliefs, values, and worldviews (Gupta, Singh and Duraiappah, 2019: 325).  For an equity-oriented society, recognising and valuing all forms of knowledge are essential and need to be beneficial towards society (Odora Hoppers, 2010). 

DE for SJ includes challenging stereotypes and encouraging independent thinking, in order to critically explore how global justice issues interlink with everyday lives (Irish Aid, 2017; Bourn, 2014).  However, in unequal and fragmented societies, such as South Africa, the role of DE involves redressing inequalities due to colonialism and apartheid, and present structural inequalities (Abdi, 2003; Jooste and Heleta, 2016).  This includes recognising the benefits of access to citizenship rights, considering that those rights remain unevenly distributed whereby poor people continue to experience significant levels of discrimination and marginalisation (Soudien, 2016: 585).  Thus, building identities which are both national and cosmopolitan are also challenging, as in South Africa this is narrated through ‘unity in diversity’ (Staeheli and Hammett, 2013).  However, perceptions of DE often emanate from the global North, which might not suit the conditions and understandings of people in the global South (Jooste and Heleta, 2016).  This highlights the imperative question about which values, and norms are guiding DE for SJ (Ibid.).  Therefore, a belief and commitment towards SJ is needed which includes epistemological and ontological knowledge generation to equip teachers and learners for DE.  As Odora Hoppers (2015) argues there are ways of knowing and issues of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) that are important in shifting the power dynamics towards an agenda of DE aimed at SJ.  This, furthermore, includes the need for different voices from lived experiences of racialised and marginalised people in order to dismantle the reproduction of Eurocentric power relations, inequalities and injustice (Sultana, 2019).  Thus, an approach to DE is underpinned by elements of transformative learning (Mayo, 2019; Brown, 2015), a commitment to reflection and dialogue, and positive action for change (Bourn, 2014: 21, 22).  This includes the development of graduates who are socially responsible, and ethical and globally competent (Jooste and Heleta, 2016: 2).

This article is theoretically informed by the concept of DE in the global South.  An approach towards DE for SJ needs to be life-long and foreground contextual and historical aspects of societies, which influence the dynamics of inequalities and power.  In an attempt towards redistribution of knowledge for all, epistemic and ontological knowledges need to be generated, and principles of IKS need to be incorporated.  This requires a transformation of beliefs, values and attitudes and an ongoing commitment to become socially responsible, ethical and globally competent.

This article analyses a continuing professional development (CPD) programme for social cohesion (SC) from a SJ point of view.  SC is South Africa’s nationwide concept used to redress inequalities of the past to achieve SJ, equity and unity.  SC is viewed as a societal rather than an individual goal and comprises horizontal and vertical dimensions (Colletta and Cullen, 2000; Chan, To and Chan, 2006).  The horizontal dimension refers to individual and communal attitudes and relations, whereas the vertical dimensions consider the structural aspects of governing and governance affecting its citizens (Sayed et al., 2017).  Furthermore, the level of SC is inversely correlated with the level of inequality.  The more unequal a country, the less the level of SC and vice versa (Langer et al., 2015).  Thus, in unequal countries, levels of political distrust and violence are often higher (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010).  In promoting a cohesive and just society, it is essential that historically systemic inequalities are reduced, resources are re-distributed, and relationships are strengthened (Sayed et al., 2017; Chan, To and Chan, 2006). 

The article was guided by the following two research questions: how do teachers perceive a CPD programme for social cohesion?  And, what knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values acquired from CPD supports teachers in their motivations towards positive action?

CPD for DE and social justice

Timperley et al (2007) highlighted four factors in CPD that are important to teacher training, which are the CPD context, the content, activities, and the learning process.  Clarke and Hollingsworth (2002) proposed a non-linear model of teacher growth, comprising a process of enactment and reflection, whereby the CPD participation influences the change of teachers’ knowledge, beliefs and attitudes, followed by a change in classroom practices and, ultimately, changing student learning outcomes (Ibid.).  The framework, developed by the Irish Development Education Association (IDEA), comprises the following characteristics and components of DE: contribution to knowledge and understanding; strengthening of values and attitudes; enhancement of skills and competencies; and promotion of action (IDEA, 2015 in Irish Aid, 2017). 

Andreotti (2006) differentiated between soft and critical approaches and implications for global citizenship and development education.  The ‘soft’ approaches are based on the perception of common humanity, whereas ‘critical’ approaches focus on justice and complicity in harm (Ibid).  Power, voice, and difference are central to the critical approaches, in an attempt to understand origins of assumptions and implications (Ibid.).  This requires a degree of ‘critical literacy’ for teachers, by being mindful of their assumptions or implications of approaches, in order to not indirectly or intentionally reproduce belief systems and harmful practices (Andreotti, 2006: 30).

Bourn (2014) argued that a belief in SJ is influenced by personal, social and cultural aspects and can be a motivating factor for teachers to act as agents of change.  However, Horner et al. (2015) argued that the role of teachers is twofold; as agents of change and conflict.  These roles can play out simultaneously, in different moments and contexts.  This means that teachers can promote harmony between pupils by emphasising respect, justice and inclusiveness but can also use their pedagogy and curriculum to perpetuate inequality and conflict between different groups (Ibid.).  Quirke-Bolt and Jeffers (2018) argued that CPD in DE is more complex than other elements of professional capacity building.  Quirke-Bolt and Jeffers (2018) drew on the work of Bourn (2014), who argued that teachers’ CPD requires reflection and critical thinking of their understanding of DE.  This is an engaged process of learning, with different ontological and epistemological perspectives (Ibid.).  Mogliacci, Raanhuis and Howell (2016) indicated that changing beliefs and attitudes can be a long-lasting and demanding process, and argue that it is essential for teachers to engage in reflexive processes and have sufficient time and space for critical self-reflection. 

In reviewing DE interventions, O’Flaherty and Liddy (2018) highlighted the importance of the epistemology, methodology, and pedagogy of the reviewed studies.  Their review showed that forms of assessments were often used to measure the interventions.  The pedagogies in the interventions continued the dominance of traditional learning sites and the use of action and activism for global change was not mentioned (O’Flaherty and Liddy, 2018: 1044).  Despite using methodologies suitable for DE and SJ, such as active learning, participative pedagogies, dialogue, and critical thinking, successful implementation of DE interventions are dependent on the funding and duration (Brown, 2015).  Furthermore, in promoting positive action towards a DE and SJ agenda, it is essential to incorporate strategies that include transforming institutional structures and cultures (Zembylas and Bekerman, 2012).  This includes the need to engage senior school leadership (McCloskey, 2016) or to use a whole-school approach, enabling transformation to occur beyond the classroom (Hunt, 2020; McCarthy and Gannon, 2016).  Critical approaches, drawn on transformative and radical foundations of DE, are useful for the fundamental structural change that is needed for SJ (Troll and Skinner, 2014). 

Post-apartheid South Africa

Prior to the ending of apartheid in 1994, South Africa was a deeply divided country, scarred by the history of colonialism and apartheid regime’s racial segregationist policies in which the black majority was denied basic human and socio-economic rights.  Following the 1953 Bantu Act, the country was segregated on race lines.  The quality of education was highly skewed, as teacher education for the black population was significantly underfunded compared to teacher education allocated for the white minority population (Seroto, 2020).  Also, the neo-Calvinist inspired Christian National Education (CNE) enabled teachers to uphold racial and gender prejudices and stereotypes through curriculum and pedagogy (Chisholm, 2019).  

The new democratically elected government created a unified education system and promulgated a raft of policies to promote equity, tolerance, respect, SJ, and to redress the inequalities of the past.  Thus, teachers were identified as key agents in this transformation process.

In 2012, the Department of Arts and Culture (2012) developed a newly designed framework to explicitly address SC which is defined as:   

“the degree of social integration and inclusion in communities and society at large, and the extent to which mutual solidarity finds expression among individuals and communities.  In terms of this definition, a community or society is cohesive to the extent that the inequalities, exclusions and disparities based on ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, age, disability or any other distinctions which engender divisions, distrust and conflict are reduced and/or eliminated in a planned and sustained manner.  This, with community members and citizens as active participants, working together for the attainment of shared goals, designed and agreed upon to improve the living conditions for all”.

The role of SC is described in development policies, such as the National Development Plan 2030 (National Planning Commission, 2012) and Medium-Term Strategic Framework 2019-2024 (DPME, 2020), and in educational policies such as the Action Plan to 2024: Towards the realisation of Schooling 2030 (Department of Basic Education [DBE], 2020).  The Action Plan to 2024 states that South Africa is committed to promoting SC and contributing to global development, and that UNICEF’s multi-country Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) initiatives will be used to guide the promotion of SC and to reduce violence (DBE, 2020).  The CSTL initiative aims to provide schools with transformational, quality, inclusive education and to build the capital needed for sustainable and inclusive development (MIET AFRICA, 2020: 4).  However, despite these policy initiatives on SC, recent violence within the country highlighted tensions rooted in deep economic inequality and racial disparity.  This recent violent unrest stressed the urgent need to strengthen SC and unity to ensure peace and harmony between different communities (Fricker, 2021).

The focus on lifelong learning is stated in various policies.  The Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development (2011–2025) has teacher development as a core aim to improve the quality of teaching and learning, redress inequities of the past and provide teachers with skills, knowledge, and attitudes for lifelong learning (DBE and DHET, 2011).  According to the CPD management system, teachers are required to obtain 150 CPD points within a cycle of three years (South African Council for Educators [SACE], 2013).  Whereas the South African policies mentioned above do not explicitly refer to DE, the principles of DE and SJ are found in the current South African policy provisions in terms of their approach to lifelong learning and education. 


This article draws upon doctoral research and analyses the experiences of teachers who attended one CPD programme for SC that was facilitated by a teacher.  A purposive sampling method was used to find and select the CPD programme and participants.  The CPD programme was selected through opportunistic sampling (Cohen et al., 2018) of CPD programmes that focused on SC and were facilitated in Cape Town, between 2016 and 2017.  This sampling approach was also used to select high school teachers who participated in this CPD programme, considering that educational research in emergency contexts has often neglected challenges within secondary education (Talbot, 2013).  All high school teachers (n=10) indicated their willingness to participate in the study.

The data collection consisted of document analysis of the CPD materials, participant-observations of the CPD programme and semi-structured interviews with one CPD facilitator and ten teachers.  The facilitator is a male and racially self-identified as White.  The other participants were eight female and two male teachers, who racially self-identified as African (one), Black African (two), Coloured (six) and White (one).  The teachers were between 26 and 60 years old, and their teaching experience ranged between six and 37 years. 

The teachers worked in two co-ed schools and one boys’ school, in urban, historically affluent suburbs in Cape Town.  These suburbs were classified as white-only suburbs during apartheid and the schools catered only to white learners.  However, whereas the structures of the schools are relatively unchanged, the learner population at some of the schools has become significantly more diverse over time in terms of race, language, religion, and culture. 

Ethical clearance was obtained from the university and the education department.  Access to the CPD programme and school premises were obtained by the CPD provider and schools.  As I observed the CPD programme, I was able to gain initial interest from participants to participate in this study by explaining the purpose of the study, research process, privacy, anonymity, and confidentiality.  When I requested access to their schools I explained this process again and informed teachers about their consent form and interview.  For the CPD facilitator, all information was shared once more prior to the interview. 

The article reports the findings of teachers’ CPD participation after at least two and a half months, to enable teachers to engage and incorporate their newly acquired CPD learnings over time (Darling-Hammond, Hyler and Gardner, 2017).  The data was collected in 2017, and the interviews included questions about teachers’ perceptions regarding the aims, mechanisms and outcomes of the CPD programme, in relation to their agency and school context.  The data collection consisted of in-person semi-structured interviews that lasted between 45 and 60 minutes.  The interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded using a discourse analysis approach (Gee, 2014) in Atlas TI.  The document analysis, interviews, and detailed field notes of the CPD observation were triangulated to generate reliable evidence (Cohen et al., 2018).

Description of CPD programme

The CPD programme emerged in 2016 after the teacher union’s national conference explicitly focused on the role of teachers in promoting SC.  Within the same year, debates and protests about racism and discrimination in various schools across South Africa emerged (Christie and McKinney, 2017), highlighting the importance of building SC and the need to adequately support teachers in their classrooms.  This was the only accredited CPD programme in 2017, which explicitly focused on SC, hence, it is a useful case study to understand teachers’ experiences regarding CPD for SC.

The programme was facilitated near Cape Town over one weekend, from Friday afternoon till Sunday afternoon.  All participants stayed in shared accommodation next to the workshop venue.  The CPD programme was facilitated by a white male and female, who worked as principals at historically white high schools and have extensive experience.  Both facilitators were involved in the design process of the CPD programme (interview with CPD facilitator in 2017).  The programme aimed to explore how diversity and transformation play a role in creating a peaceful country.  It examined and embraced existing hegemonic traditions within the school, and beliefs and values of teachers (overview CPD programme manual, 2017).  The programme used PowerPoint presentations and video clips and a variety of activities such as group work, reflection, case studies and dialogue.  Furthermore, teachers received a journal for reflection and handouts consisting of literature, exercises, and templates. 


The findings of this article are described in relation to the components of DE, which are its contribution to knowledge and understanding, how it strengthens values and attitudes, enhances skills and competencies, and promotes action (IDEA, 2015 in Irish Aid, 2017).

Contributing to knowledge and understanding

The first component of DE refers to the contribution of knowledge and understanding, which explores cultural, environmental, economic, political and social relationships (Irish Aid, 2017: 6).  Thus, it should challenge dynamics of power and inequalities, including those caused by colonialism and apartheid (Odora Hoppers, 2010; Sultana, 2019; Abdi, 2003).  Teachers were provided with theories on prejudice and unconscious bias in order to understand their personal and professional agency as teachers for SC.  They received hand-outs with practical strategies on how to create safe classrooms.  In an attempt to transform existing hegemonic traditions and beliefs within schools, the programme provided teachers with strategies on how to hold difficult conversations about transformation. 

In providing teachers with the relevant content knowledge (CK) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) for SC, it is important to acknowledge the knowledge and positionality of the knowledge giver.  This is an essential aspect of DE, as Sultana (2019: 36) argued that the positionality of the knowledge giver influences the knowledge proffered and how development knowledge is produced, circulated and consumed.  The influence of the facilitators in producing knowledge and understanding is illustrated in the following ways:

“Some people respond differently to certain people in terms of understanding their style and all that....  I still fail to understand why there are no presenters from other racial groupings? ... Do they know enough or is it just what they read in books? Which are mainly American.  Don’t we have South African stories and there any writings about South Africa for South Africans?” (IsiXhosa teacher, school 1).

“... the two principals [facilitators] were from very like-minded environments.... They should get someone from a school that represents a bigger working-class environment” (English teacher, school 3).

The aspects of the contribution to knowledge and understanding aimed at DE were apparent in the CPD programme through the theories and activities.  However, the analysis showed that the facilitators played a crucial role in how the programme was perceived.  Education during apartheid was based on racial, paternalistic assumptions of CNE (Chisholm, 2019), hence knowledge production has always played an important role in both producing knowledge and redressing the inequalities and injustices of the past.  Sayed and Novelli argued that, in post-conflict contexts, teachers and facilitators have histories and experiences of conflict, both as victims or perpetrators (2016: 81).  As a result, they carry prejudice and biases against others who do not share their identity and belonging (Ibid.). 

Furthermore, knowledge is understood to be partial, subjective, and situated (Haraway, 1988).  The programme was facilitated by two principals who work in historically affluent schools.  Therefore, the knowledge and teaching experience that they drew upon might have been influenced by their experiences of working within these particular environments, which are not similar to the majority of South African schools (Spaull, 2019).  Therefore, their perceptions of addressing issues of SC within education might be aimed towards certain types of schools or challenges regarding SC. 

Strengthening values and attitudes for global change

The second component of DE aims to bring about positive change, informed by values of equality, diversity, sustainability, democracy, human rights and responsibilities (Irish Aid, 2017: 6).  Whereas the different knowledges described in the previous section provided teachers with new pedagogies and insights into transformation, the use of activities focusing on self-reflexivity enabled the teachers to engage with their epistemological and ontological assumptions, behaviour, and values.  The activities were targeted towards understanding the dynamics of unconscious bias and prejudice, and how this influences practices within the classroom and school.   

The programme aimed to strengthen values and attitudes towards positive change by focusing on the teachers’ reflexivity.  Andreotti (2014) described the process of reflexivity as a metaphor of three layers; self-awareness, self-reflection and self-reflexivity.  The programme provided teachers with activities to create self-awareness and to reflect upon personal and professional experiences.  The study found that the majority of teachers reported an increased awareness of their existing beliefs and attitudes following the programme activities.   

“The part about Biases!  I felt that that was quite powerful.  And it made me aware of those biases that I have in a classroom.... because sometimes you don’t realise that it’s actually something that you don’t necessarily pounce on” (Life Orientation teacher, school 2, 2017).

As a result of increased self-awareness and self-reflection, teachers were able to connect their personal experiences and wounds of the past, such as traumatic and violent events, as described below:

“That did make me become a little bit more aware of my surroundings, aware of other people and their reality as opposed to my ‘coloured reality’ and what I’ve grown up with made me just start thinking a little bit.... I grew up in a racist society, believing that Coloured people should be together, that’s how we grew up; that’s what we were told” (English teacher, school 2).

The study found that the teacher’s process of self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-reflexivity led to increased critical consciousness (Freire, 2000).  Teachers became more aware of themselves and, as Greene (1995 cited in Waghid, 2005) argued, the ‘multiple voices’ and ‘multiple realities’ of others.  Kwenda (2003) argued that self-consciousness is the starting point of the principle of ‘mutual vulnerability’, whereas self-consciousness is shared or at least recognised as a form of cultural justice.  Within education, such self-consciousness and deep self-awareness are essential to becoming humanising pedagogical agents (Keet, Zinn and Porteus, 2009).  However, in post-conflict countries, such as South Africa, with deep-rooted histories of violence, inequalities and injustice, the critical awareness includes recognising and coming to terms with teachers’ inherited attitudes and values caused by traumas in the past (Weldon, 2010: 362).  Weldon argues that such self-knowledge can inform change processes towards new values, rebuild relationships and foster meaningful reactions (Ibid.). 

Enhancing skills and competencies

The third theme describes the use of tools to enhance the skills and competencies of teachers.  This includes the exploration of multiple perspectives (Odora Hoppers, 2015) and critically engaging between local and global issues (Bourn, 2014) by using participative and creative approaches (Irish Aid, 2017).

The programme provided teachers with practical hand-outs, consisting of strategies suitable for building SC.  Practical hand-outs provided guidance and pedagogies on how to create safe spaces and dialogue, promote active listening, and create a reflective classroom community.  Through group work, case studies were used to engage teachers in dialogue.  Thus, through role-play or presentations, teachers explored a topic and presented this to the rest of the group.  The topics were connected to the previously provided knowledge and attitudes about the role of their school policies, processes, traditions and cultural practices. 

The analysis showed that the use of examples, through case studies or presentations, enabled teachers to connect their newly acquired knowledge and attitudes to their classrooms and broader context, as described below:

“It did equip me because the scenarios that they used, it makes you take it back to class, for instance, the case of maybe dealing with a learner you understand.  Because sometimes you will deal with a learner, thinking that this learner is misbehaving, not knowing that there is something beyond that.  But now you must find another way of dealing with that learner” (IsiXhosa teacher, school 2).

Another way to enhance skills and competencies was through sharing knowledge and learning from teachers who teach in different contexts:

“Oh, teachers during the training, oh, that was really good.  I think, because it all started so involved as well, we immediately started talking in groups.  So I think that, at the end of the day, we spoke maybe to ten different people and about what works for them” (Teacher, Afrikaans teacher, school 1).

The CPD programme used a range of pedagogies that were critical, participative, and collaborative.  Such pedagogies are also perceived as suitable for promoting SJ and SC (see Sayed et al., 2017; Gill and Niens, 2014; Ladson-Billings, 2014).  In enhancing newly acquired skills and competencies, the programme used group work activities to enable teachers to make meaningful connections between their local realities and global contexts.  Through role-play and case studies, teachers could engage with their new skills and knowledges interactively.  Thus, the use of dialogue encouraged teachers to critically engage with aspects of DE and the roles they play within local or global contexts.  These components of CPD are essential in equipping teachers with an increased understanding and suitable pedagogies for DE and SJ.

The motivations to promote positive action

The fourth component of DE refers to making connections between one’s personal life and global justice issues.  This view is expanded by focusing on the empowerment to make a positive difference in the world and by the commitment towards making socially responsive, ethical and global competent people (Irish Aid, 2017:6; Bourn; 2014; Jooste and Heleta, 2016).  The programme aimed to equip teachers with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to promote positive action, by focusing on: transforming policies; transforming attitudes and behaviour; and changing school cultures.

The programme provided teachers with knowledge and an understanding of how school policies, such as the code of conduct and hiring policies, can become more inclusive in order to bring about institutional change:

“We are earmarking this, because it links also very well with relooking at the code of conduct of the school.  Just the slight twigging that needs to happen to make it fit for a new generation” (English teacher, school 3).

It is essential to align CPD and policy initiatives to promote SC and SJ (Sayed et al., 2017).  Most teachers indicated that their code of conduct was amended to make current school policies more inclusive.  Through various reflective activities, teachers were exposed to how their behaviour and attitudes can influence their classroom practices.  However, it is important that there is continuity, either through PLCs (Feldman, 2020) or other forms of formal or informal CPD (Evans, 2018), whereby teachers could internalise new knowledge, skills, and attitudes over a more extended period (Cordingley, Higgins and Greany 2015).  

“There needs to be a continuation in order for you to change and to instil it” (Technology teacher, school 2).

Furthermore, the programme included strategies to cascade the new CPD learnings within the school, even though teachers felt that it was difficult to share their new learnings with their peers:

“I think what they should do is actually have a programme design which we take back to school, so it’s part of the mechanism of the programme, so it’s not really us forcing it” (Afrikaans teacher (2), school 1).

The strategy lays the groundwork for actions that teachers can follow up on.  However, this article did not look at the long-term outcomes.  The analysis highlights the importance of incorporating different mechanisms within the school to cascade the newly acquired learnings.  A whole-school approach could be suitable as such approaches can provide the ability to embed global learning principles into the ethos, values, and purpose of the school (Hunt, 2020).  Thus, when nurturing the values and learnings of DE and SJ within the school, the values will be integrated within the school rather than solely through pedagogy and curriculum.  To promote positive change through CPD, such programmes need to include a whole school approach with clear strategies for institutional change.  However, context matters in such transformations.  It is therefore essential that the framework of components and characteristics of DE factors in contextual dimensions.

Discussion and conclusions

In order to equip teachers for a socially just world, it is essential to support teachers as lifelong learners.  By exploring one CPD programme aimed at SC, facilitated near Cape Town, South Africa, this article aimed to address how teachers perceived CPD for SC and what skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values acquired from the CPD programme supported them towards positive action.  The article offered an analysis of the programme by using components and characteristics of DE, which include: the contribution to knowledge and understanding; strengthening values and attitudes; enhancing skills and competences; and promoting action.  The article showed that the facilitators’ situated knowledge and experiences are key in transferring knowledge, considering that the knowledge which facilitators seek to impart is conditioned by their own knowledge. 

Through a process of self-awareness, self-reflection and self-reflexivity, the programme engaged with teachers’ existing beliefs and values.  In post-conflict countries, this includes engaging teachers with the prejudices and traumas of their past.  However, as it requires time to change beliefs and attitudes, spaces for formal or informal CPD that engage teachers in critical reflection over time are necessary.  By engaging in case study activities and dialogues, teachers were able to connect their newly acquired theoretical underpinnings to their local and global contexts.  Thus, active learning activities enabled teachers to connect their newly acquired knowledge and internalise their values and attitudes towards the necessary skills and competencies for DE and SJ. 

The motivations to promote positive action were influenced by their school environment.  Whereas all teachers indicated that conversations around changing school policies had taken place, most teachers indicated the difficulties of implementing new strategies.  Within the timeframe of this study, teachers reported the difficulty to make meaningful changes to their practices or behaviours without continuation or follow up workshops.  Thus, despite the importance of CPD targeting the DE agenda for SJ, I suggest that in order to change institutional structures and belief systems, such CPD programmes need to be context-specific and require a guided approach on how to dismantle institutional cultures to bring lasting change. 

This article focused on one CPD programme for SC through the lens of teachers in post-apartheid South Africa.  Although the programme was facilitated within a post-conflict context in the global South, I believe that the findings are also relevant to broader diverse contexts in terms of their religious, racial, linguistic, or cultural learner populations.  The findings provide insights for those interested in designing and delivering CPD aimed at DE and SJ.  Teachers in all contexts should be supported as agents of change, through CPD.  Therefore, it is vital for teachers to understand how their power, positionality, and beliefs influence their agency for SJ and SC.  As such change requires self-reflexivity and time, I argue that CPD aimed at DE and SJ within all contexts should create spaces for teachers to confront and change existing dispositions over time.  Thus, in considering the influence of institutional cultures in promoting positive action, I recognise that context matters.  Therefore, a model focusing on the required knowledge, skills, attitudes and actions for DE should factor in the importance of context. 


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Joyce Raanhuis is a doctoral student at the Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Cape Town, with a background in Migration Studies from the University of Sussex, UK.  Her doctoral research focuses on the role of teacher professional development programmes for social cohesion in the field of education in post-apartheid South Africa.  Furthermore, her research interests include post-conflict education, social justice, and migration.  Centre for International Teacher Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Mowbray, 7700, South Africa.  E-mail: Joyce.Raanhuis01@gmail.com

Note:  The work reported in this article was based on doctoral research and was mainly supported by the generous financial assistance of the National Research Foundation (NRF), which funds the South African Research Chair in Teacher Education, Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).  In addition, CPUT provides a further Postgraduate Bursary.  Opinions expressed in this article and the conclusions resulting from these studies are those of the author and are not necessarily to be attributed to the South African Research Chair in Teacher Education, National Research Foundation or CPUT.

Disclaimer: The author understands race to be socially constructed.  However, this article uses the official categories of “Black”, “Coloured”, Indian” and “White”.  These categories were opposed under apartheid and not set by the author.  In self-identifying racial backgrounds, teachers could choose between “Black African”, “Coloured”, “Indian”, “White”, “Other” and “I choose not to respond”.  The author uses these categories as markers of inequities, but does not endorse the utilisation of these categories.


Raanhuis, J (2021) ‘Empowering Teachers as Agents of Social Cohesion: Continuing Professional Development in Post-Apartheid South Africa’, Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 33, Autumn, pp. 28-51.