Original Research

The impact of inequality and COVID-19 on education and career planning for South African children of rural and low-socioeconomic backgrounds

Indira Pillay
African Journal of Career Development | Vol 3, No 1 | a36 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajcd.v3i1.36 | © 2021 Indira Pillay | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 February 2021 | Published: 18 May 2021

About the author(s)

Indira Pillay, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: South African youth in poor and rural communities have faced serious challenges, and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has worsened their situation. The odds are stacked against them as they try to obtain an education, and eventually a career. Many students struggle to complete their studies amidst the pressure of the pandemic, and concerns over career possibilities weigh heavily on their shoulders.

Objectives: The need for this research is to highlight the challenges faced by youth within the education system. It is also to explore the failings of the South African government and its education sector.

Method: A brief overview of the current and historical literature was conducted. Relevant literature was reviewed and critically analysed.

Results: Eight major themes emerged from the literature surveyed. These included access to education, difficulties faced by girls, racism, infrastructure problems in poor and rural schools, child-headed households, education during COVID-19, food security and the absence of career guidance in low-income schools.

Conclusion: In light of South Africa’s difficult history, and the fact that it is 27 years after the fall of apartheid, the state of South Africa’s education system is not conducive to education and promoting career development in young people. More attention needs to be given to education in poorer communities, and government needs to be held accountable.


COVID-19; education; employment; inequality; South Africa


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