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Poverty is considered a risk factor that jeopardizes children’s academic performance. However, even in high-poverty contexts there are students who manage to achieve consistently good academic results. This paper uses a resilience framework to identify and describe the characteristics of students from South African rural and township primary schools who perform above socio-economic expectations in literacy. After accounting for differences in socio-economic status, we find that resilient students differ significantly from their lower-achieving peers along various dimensions, especially socio-emotional skills. This is a promising finding in light of a growing body of research on skill formation, which suggests that these skills can be fostered through targeted interventions.

Resilience, Socio-emotional skills, Grit, Literacy, Challenging contexts, South Africa


Wills, G. and Hofmeyr, H., 2019. Academic resilience in challenging contexts: Evidence from township and rural primary schools in South Africa. International Journal of Educational Research98, pp.192-205.