Voicing the educational experiences of out-of-school youth in Eswatini.
Manana, Tibekile Ainethah.
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The minimal or non-involvement of out-of-school youths in educational policies meant to address their issues, contributes to the failure of some interventions. The educational experiences and perspectives of out-of-school youths have been ignored in favour of statistical data. This has contributed to some out-of-school youths being categorized as not in education, employment or training (NEETs) in Eswatini. By focusing on out-of-school youths aged 15 – 24 years, this thesis attempts to give voice to their educational experiences and explores NEETs’ contributions as co-researchers to the process of conducting the study. Using a narrative inquiry approach and life history design within an interpretivist paradigm, this study set out to interpret, analyse and theorise out-ofschool youths’ educational experiences. The youths’ experiences serve as the unit of analysis. Methods of data collection including photo voice, interviews, focus group discussions and journal writing research methods provided the opportunity for meaning making and an indepth understanding of the NEETs experiences, what contributed to them becoming NEETs and how co-researching contributed to the study. Using theoretical lenses from Illeris’ theory of learning, the lifespan development psychological theory and social capital within the lifelong learning approach, the study found that the NEET concept is influenced by neoliberalism. A young person is a ‘Not’ in relation to modern formal learning aspects but might be richly endowed in relation to traditional informal learning and employment. Structural barriers such as family backgrounds expose youths to a life of poverty which impacts negatively on the youths’ educational access and completion, access to scarce jobs and social connections. Informal learning, particularly in poverty and when faced with economic crises was valued by participants. Even though the skills and values acquired informally have been stigmatised and less favoured compared to those acquired formally, out-of-school youths used them as a means of livelihood. The engagement of informally acquired skills demonstrate the NEETs’ need for more opportunities in their trajectory to the world of work, recognition as agents of change within their families, communities and even nationally, and their need for social support. The study proposes the FILLL framework to understand out-of-school youths learning experiences as an alternative to the reductive NEET category. FILLL comprises Family and community involvement (F), social Insertedness (I); Learning (L) not only as lifelong but also as life-wide and life-deep; Livelihoods (L) including informal activities; and Legacies (L) that people inherit, learn and renew from those who had come before.