“I just kept quiet”: Exploring equity in a service-learning programme
van Huyssteen, Mea
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Social justice underpins the sustainable development goal of health for all. In developing countries, social injustices are particularly severe and widespread, demanding critical and immediate attention. This article describes a qualitative, descriptive study that investigated pharmacy students’ responses to incidents of social injustice following their service-learning experiences in public-sector primary healthcare facilities in Cape Town, South Africa. Data were gathered from written reflection reports and then thematically analyzed using the pedagogy of discomfort as an interpretive framework. Themes were categorised according to students’ habitual responses to incidents of social injustice, how they interpreted their responses, and how they could promote social justice in the workplace as future healthcare professionals. Findings demonstrated students’ inability to take action and revealed that silence was the most common response to incidents of discrimination. These results highlight the ways in which the structural constraints of the societal status quo can perpetuate inequity. Study limitations include bias from students self-reports and their narrow understanding of structural barriers in the work-place. Intergenerational dialogue and advocacy is crucial across South African higher education to understand widespread social injustices. Embedding a critical approach to service-learning in the African context needs exploration.