Recounting the Learning Challenges Experienced by Students from Rural Areas in South Africa in the Context of a Pandemic




rurality, digital divide, epistemic access, digital access, connectivity


Globally, the unprecedented onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has impelled students to transition abruptly from their traditional learning spaces to new learning conditions. To this end, universities were compelled to overhaul their existing institutional operations in conformance with the lockdown protocols enforced by the National Government. The sudden switch to an unplanned remote mode of teaching and learning becomes not only a lamentable reality for both academics but also a daunting challenge for many students. Concomitantly, this pandemic has rudely exposed a range of disparities that exist among tertiary students in South Africa. Consequently, many students of lower socioeconomic status lack the necessary resources and skills to succeed on a virtual platform of learning. Furthermore, during the lockdown period, many students were compelled to return to their rural towns and study in workspaces that were not conducive to learning, thus limiting their chances to engage optimally. This raises the question: How will students confined to their rural township homes that are not conducive to learning and do not have the efficacies to adapt to digital learning access, engage in, and successfully complete the current academic year? In fact, the digital divide widens the epistemic gap for most students from rural and vulnerable communities, diminishing their opportunities to access an inclusive and participatory education. Equally, COVID-19 forcibly sanctions that digital learning is no longer a privilege but a right to inclusive education. Consequently, this paper will highlight the vast chasms and challenges experienced by vulnerable first-year students of rural communities during the lockdown period, mostly highlighting the constraints on their epistemic access in the context of a pandemic.


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How to Cite

Maniram, R. (2023) “Recounting the Learning Challenges Experienced by Students from Rural Areas in South Africa in the Context of a Pandemic”, African Journal of Inter/Multidisciplinary Studies, 5(1), pp. 1–12. doi: 10.51415/ajims.v5i1.1298.