Human Rights Education in the South African Higher Education Context: (Im)possibilities for Human Rights Literacies

  • Annamagriet de WetEmail author
  • Shan Simmonds
Part of the Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Rights book series (CHREN, volume 2)


South Africa’s higher education landscape mirrors its history of its relentlessly discriminatory past along racial, gender, social, political and class lines. Within this setting teacher education aims to cultivate its teaching and learning toward the fostering of moral persons who are caring towards the other and concerned with social justice and transformation. In this sense we explored the relationship between human rights education and human rights literacies and how these can be called upon to create one avenue to drive this agenda. In this chapter we use evidence-based findings to unpack the (im)possibilities for human rights literacies as revealed through student-teachers’ views of human rights education. As students’ views may reveal what and how they learned and what the curriculum offered them, we may unlock (im)possibilities for reviving human rights education and supporting human rights literacies through teacher education. We concentrated on the human rights education section in two surveys (S2013_RSA and S2015_RSA) to see how findings might shed light on future directions for teacher education to support human rights literacies, dynamically fluid, and that are continuously developing in response to the South African context. In response to critique against human rights education as stagnant, declarationist and as having lost its critical and transformative edge (Keet et al., South African Journal of Higher Education, 31, 79–95, 2017; Spreen and Monaghan, Human rights education: Theory, research, praxis, 2017; Keet, Human rights education or human rights in education: A conceptual analysis, 2007) we argue that for human rights literacies and human rights education to be supportive of one another, human rights education programmes in teacher education should regard human rights literacies as a disposition toward thinking and practising human rights that occupies the spaces that emerge when one transcends the division between what is legislation (written) and what is lived. For this reason, we recommend transformative pedagogies be included in teacher education programmes for human rights.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.North West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa

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