n Journal of Educational Studies - An exploration of the challenges facing underperforming schools in the Vhembe district, Limpopo province, South Africa

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 1680-7456



This paper explores challenges facing underperforming schools in the Vhembe District of Education in Limpopo Province, South Africa and how these challenges influence effective teaching and learning. The study employed a qualitative approach and semi-structured interviews and observations were used as data collection methods. A review of literature shows that school underperformance is complex and multi-faceted and that teachers often function under poor and unhealthy working conditions. My study draws on the Opportunity to Learn (OTL) theory as described by Kilpatrick, Swafford and Findell (2001). This theory suggests that OTL is a predictor of learner achievement and that learners in underperforming schools are not given sufficient opportunities to attain the minimum objectives of the curriculum. Four secondary schools in Vhembe District of Education in Limpopo were sampled and specifically Grade 12 Mathematics and Science teachers participated in the study. These were schools that had already been identified by the Vhembe District Department of Education as requiring intervention based on their underperformance status. Textual data was analyzed using content analysis. The major challenges that emanated from the findings of this research were support, parental involvement, language barriers and lack of resources. These challenges contribute towards ineffective teaching and learning which leads to underperformance in schools. The findings therefore have implications for overall results for Grade 12 at the sampled schools.

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