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This research was undertaken to analyse and critically assess the adequacy of the KwaZulu-Natal School Library Policy and its implementation strategy and to test the policy's feasibility for implementation in the South African province.
The research was guided by eleven research questions of which the following relate more directly to policy formulation and implementation and are relevant to this article:
- The key elements of the provincial policy and their adequacy in terms of policy formulation and development;
- The implementation strategy and issues of equity and redress;
- The identification of practical implementation problems that need to be addressed;
- Key strategies and foci identified by experts in the field through the use of the Delphi Method
The Delphi technique was used as the main methodology for the critical analysis of the policy and its implementation strategy and to structure thinking around the characteristics of good policy as set out in the literature. This technique is a group facilitation one that seeks consensus on the opinion of experts through a series of structured questionnaires where panellists respond independently and anonymously to one another's opinions.
Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2000, pp. 237-238) perceive the Delphi method as the written partner to the Nominal Group Technique. The Nominal Group Technique is a face-to-face group judgment technique in which participants generate silently, in writing, responses to a given problem. The responses are collected and posted (but not identified by author) for others to view. Through group discussion the responses are clarified and further iterations may follow until a final set of responses is established (Cohen, Manion and Morrison 2000, pp. 237-8).
The Delphi method has the advantage of not requiring the participants to meet together as a group. Data collection resembles the Nominal Group Technique in that participants respond to a series of questions and statements in writing. The researcher collects written responses, collating it into clusters of issues and responses. The analysis is passed back to the respondents for comment, further discussion and identification of issues, responses, and priorities. Respondents are asked to respond to the group response, and can agree or indicate more substantial disagreement. By presenting the group response back to the participants there is general progression in technique to the polarisation of responses, thus a clear identification of areas of consensus and dissension.
There were great inequalities in the provision of libraries to South African schools under the former pre-1994 education departments which resulted in widespread lack of facilities, inadequate resources, and a lack of trained personnel in the majority of schools. The disparities were further aggravated by the fact that there was no legislation
enforcing education departments to provide school libraries and establish library standards. However, the implementation of Curriculum 2005 in 1998 (South Africa. Department of Education. 1999a) was seen in many ways as a watershed in South Africa's educational history and represented a new paradigm in education. It was anticipated that the outcomes-based curriculum with its concepts of integration and lifelong learning as part of a new approach to education would transform the legacy of the past and provide equal access to education for all learners.
There were great inequalities in the provision of libraries to South African schools under the former pre-1994 education departments which resulted in widespread lack of facilities, inadequate resources, and a lack of trained personnel in the majority of schools.
The school library sector perceived the focus on information literacy and lifelong learning in an outcomes-based teaching methodology as critical elements underpinning the teaching and learning environment offered by school libraries. The sector assumed that these views would be similarly endorsed by national guidelines and policy which, in turn, would structure and focus interventions at national, provincial and school level. However, school libraries have thus far been largely ignored in education reform strategies and the onus on establishing and developing school library services has been left to provincial education departments.
Service delivery background in KwaZulu-Natal
KwaZulu-Natal consists of densely populated urban areas as well as deep rural areas where schools are spread out or sometimes clustered. Schools vary in size from small farm schools with one or two staff members to schools with more than 2500 learners and 70 staff members. The demographic and socio-economic environments in KwaZulu-Natal present major stumbling blocks to the provision of education in the province. The learning environment is compromised by the challenges of rural education such as lack of running water, sanitation, electricity, infrastructure and transport. In many schools the language of instruction is seldom spoken outside the classroom. Critical health issues such as malaria, bilharzia, and the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the province have resulted in a decline in teacher numbers and the loss of expertise, and an increase in the numbers of orphans and out-of-school youths. In the classroom these conditions have translated into poor concentration, absenteeism, and lack of motivation for teachers and learners alike (Bot, Wilson and Dove, 2000; EduAction, 2004).
School library services in KwaZulu-Natal have to be conceptualised and implemented against this background and, moreover, without the support of national policies or guidelines. In 2002 the Directorate Education Library, Information and Technology Services (ELITS), responsible for school library services in KwaZulu-Natal's Department of Education, argued that it would no longer be possible to plan and deliver appropriate services in a vacuum. The directorate initiated a process to develop a provincial school library policy based on the then national policy draft initiatives.
The KZN School Library Policy (KwaZulu-Natal. Department of Education and Culture, 2003) promotes among other things a whole-school information literacy policy, and its vision takes into account that such a policy at school level will inform, and be informed, by all other aspects of policy and planning. The policy document "acknowledges the shared responsibility of the teacher, and the truth that information literacy requires a close partnership between the school librarian and the teacher" (De Jager, Nassimbeni and Underwood, 2007, p. 143). The implementation strategy envisaged a rollout of a starter collection to 1000 schools per annum, starting in 2005. However, the annual allocation for the project has not increased and to date fewer schools have been resourced (KwaZulu-Natal. Department of Education, 2007).